Middlesbrough's blend of experience and quality presents an interesting challenge for Liverpool to overcome on Wednesday night, according to Jürgen Klopp.
The Reds will journey to the Riverside Stadium with real determination to claim three points after failing in that aim against Bournemouth and West Ham United in their previous two Premier League games.
Klopp and his backroom team have carefully assessed the strengths and weaknesses of Aitor Karanka’s side ahead of the midweek trip to the north east – and the boss therefore feels he has a firm understanding of what to expect.
“Unfortunately, they are a very difficult side to play, because they haven’t scored a lot until now but they don’t concede a lot,” the German commented at Monday’s pre-match press conference.
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“They are a football-playing side with quite skilled players. We made the opposition analysis this morning and it’s really interesting to see what they are capable of. It’s an interesting challenge, I would say.
“It’s never easy in the Premier League, but this game of course is not easy. But we don’t care too much; we take their skills, we take their qualities, we take their weaknesses only for analysis and then we have to play our game. If there is something we can use, we try to, that’s all.
“As a promoted team, maybe it’s not that likely that you have this quality, that’s really good – experience everywhere, actually, a mixture of international experience and Championship experience.
“The players collected a lot of experience in the Championship and then they bring in [more]. I don’t know how often [Victor] Valdes won the Champions League! And all the offensive players, there’s real quality. That’s what you have to respect.
“They played quite differently against different sides. In one moment they are a real possession side but on the other hand, against Arsenal and City for example, they only had 20 per cent possession or something.
“That’s all part of the truth. They are flexible in the way they play but always difficult to play. At the end, they didn’t collect 500 points with this, that’s another part of the truth.
“So we have to use our experience from the last few games and try to do better and win. That’s the plan, of course – we try it all the time.”
Liverpool’s 2-2 draw with West Ham at Anfield left Klopp’s charges in third place in the Premier League table, six points behind pace-setters Chelsea.
When the subject of the standings was raised, however, the manager was quick to explain his belief in not giving any thought to positions at this stage of the season.
He said: “I think it makes absolutely no sense that you count the points between you and other teams in this moment in the season.
“We lost five points in the last two games – we were twice the better side but we let them score, so our fault. But nothing else happened.
“You can imagine that we are not happy about this, but not because Chelsea or Arsenal won their games, because we have absolutely no influence on what they do. Until now, we were not the luckiest side in the Premier League with decisions and all that stuff. That’s how it is, you have to do your own thing and you have to collect points.
“Around the last 10 games, you need to be in a position to fight for something. I think we have showed we need to be in a position in the table at the very top, wherever it is, because we are good enough to be there. Only the teams who are there can fight for the very special things in these moments.
“If the gap is getting bigger because of our results, it’s our fault, but we don’t think about the distance between us and other teams – we only think about the next game.
“And hopefully in a few weeks everything can change in both directions. Why should I think about only one direction? It’s all good in the moment.
“We are not happy about our last two games but things like this happen. You have to be ready for it. We are not surprised that things like this happen, especially not in the West Ham game. Of course, Bournemouth was not expected. But it was clear West Ham would be difficult. And if we let them score twice, then it would be much more difficult, that’s how it is.
“Only we can sort it and that’s what we are thinking about – that’s all and not distances between us and other teams.”