Liverpool hope to get back on track against Boro in Capital One Cup
Having lost their last two league matches, Liverpool will be hoping for a turn in their fortunes against Middlesbrough in round three of the Capital One Cup.
Brendan Rodgers’ side look a shadow of the team they were a year ago, when his side sat fifth in the Premier League on 10 points, from five fixtures, two behind then-leaders Arsenal. Currently in 11th with six from 15 on offer, a cup competition could either be a healthy distraction, or one they don’t need.
The Reds are odds-on at 2/5 with Coral to progress to the next round, while Boro, who are flying high in the Championship, are priced at 13/2. Defensively, some might say the Reds have been tactically naive this term; conceding three at Upton Park is a rarity these days, and to lose 1-0 to Aston Villa at Anfield was a shock that nobody expected.
Enrique Garcia Martinez, or ‘Kike’ to his friends, has been in fine form for Aitor Karanka’s team this term, with four in the league, as well as one in this competition, so odds of 7/2 to net anytime could be good value.
Talented German-Turkish attacker Samed Yesil, meanwhile, could be in line for a start in home ranks, having impressed for the Under-21 team this season, with a goal and an assist. He may be what Liverpool need to freshen up their attack, being an unknown quantity, and Rodgers is renowned for blooding youngsters.
Mario Balotelli has been, on balance, impressive since his switch from Italy, and was involved in Raheem Sterling’s goal against West Ham, plucking the ball out of mid-air, before his shot was blocked by Aaron Cresswell with the rebound falling kindly for the Reds. The Italian is also 7/2 to open the scoring, and could be a handful for Boro’s defence.
The big question, though, is what formation Liverpool are going to play? Rodgers has tinkered this term, experimenting with a 4-4-2 diamond, 4-3-3, and against the Hammers moved to a 3-5-2 with wing backs.
Adam Lallana has been used sparingly since returning from injury, with the Northern Irish manager looking to ease the 26-year-old back into fitness gradually. This could be a good opportunity for the England international to get a full 90 minutes under his belt; however, the conundrum would be where would he be best utilised.
It could also be a good opportunity for Lazar Markovic to stake a place in the starting XI; Liverpool’s long awaited replacement for club legend Patrik Berger, is yet to show what he can do, despite arriving with a big reputation. The Serbian winger is 5/1 to score first.
Rickie Lambert, however, is highly likely to start his first competitive match for the club he supported as a boy. Since moving to Anfield, his chances have been limited to mainly sub appearances. The 32-year-old is 7/2 to net the opener.
Skipper Steven Gerrard may also play a part in the tie, and has three goals in his last five appearances against the team from Teesside, and is 7/4 to find the goal anytime.
Boro boss Karanka, is without top scorer Grant Leadbitter, with the 28-year-old suspended for the trip to Merseyside. However, having won their last three league matches, the Spanish boss is confident going into the match.
“The most important thing is that we keep going in this way and win games,” Karanka said. “We have won three in a row now, we have another on Tuesday and we have to keep looking at the following game.”
A shock 1-0 win to Boro is priced at 25/1.