Brazil­ian may bol­ster Liver­pool’s fi­nal push for top four place

New Straits Times - - Sport -

ROBERTO Firmino may be avail­able to re­turn from in­jury to help Liver­pool’s push to se­cure Cham­pi­ons League qual­i­fi­ca­tion against rel­e­gated Mid­dles­brough at An­field to­day.

Or­di­nar­ily Liver­pool would start as warm favourites but hav­ing not won in three suc­ces­sive home games that can give some suc­cour to their pur­suers Ar­se­nal, who can still over­take Jur­gen Klopp’s side for a top four fin­ish if the hosts drop points.

Klopp would like to have Firmino avail­able as the Brazil in­ter­na­tional has made a sig­nif­i­cant im­pact in front of goal this sea­son with 12 goals.

How­ever, he missed last Sun­day’s 4-0 win at West Ham with a knock, and was un­able to train this week although he was ably re­placed by Daniel Stur­ridge against the Ham­mers.

Stur­ridge, mak­ing his first Pre­mier League start since Jan­uary af­ter over­com­ing a se­ries of in­jury prob­lems, opened the scor­ing.

Firmino’s re­turn would give Klopp a wel­come ex­tra op­tion in at­tack, though, and the Ger­man seems to be­lieve it could hap­pen.

“The news is very pos­i­tive,” Klopp said. “We could not de­cide un­til now, but he feels good and he feels com­fort­able.

“He did a lot of things, but was not part of team train­ing. That’s not a prob­lem af­ter this long sea­son.

“I think we will make a fi­nal test. In this mo­ment, I would rather say ‘yes’ than ‘per­haps’, but I am not sure.”

In the­ory, Liver­pool ought to se­cure a Cham­pi­ons League place com­fort­ably; all they need to do to be certain of at least fourth po­si­tion is to beat a Mid­dles­brough side who have won away just once all sea­son in the league, and that was at bot­tom club Sunderland in Au­gust.

How­ever, Klopp’s team have been jit­tery on their own turf of late draw­ing with Bournemouth and Southamp­ton ei­ther side of a de­feat by Crystal Palace.

“Three teams have to go down each year and Mid­dles­brough are one of them,” Klopp said.

“But if you watch their last few games, then they were close.

“They fought re­ally hard to stay in the league.

“They were not re­ally lucky at some mo­ments. They played Manch­ester City not too long ago and were close to more than a point.”

Care­taker man­ager Steve Agnew in­sists Mid­dles­brough won’t have their minds on the rapidly ap­proach­ing sum­mer break, and are keen to end a run of 41 years with­out a win at An­field.

“We’ll do ev­ery­thing we can to set the team up well in or­der to put up a top per­for­mance for our sup­port­ers,” said Agnew, who is thought un­likely to get the man­ager job full-time.

Roberto Firmino

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