Brendan Rodgers would not let you believe it, but Liverpool are in a bit of trouble.
The Reds have started this season extremely poorly with the exit of Luis Suarez proving more decisive to Liverpool's chances than they might have believed.
With just two wins and three defeats already in the Premier League, and a late penalty against Bulgarian champions Ludogorets masking a poor performance, Liverpool are reeling as they look to find a solution to the Uruguayan's absence.
Just as Tottenham did a year ago when they lost Gareth Bale, Liverpool decided to buy multiple players to cover the loss of their 31-goal talisman. In came Mario Balotelli, Adam Lallana, Lazar Markovic and Rickie Lambert to provide attacking options for the Reds, but so far none of those have made their mark.
Lallana has just returned from injury and still looks unfit, Markovic, 20, is way too raw at the moment, while Rickie Lambert was always going to be a backup (though he is likely to make his first start for the club).
Balotelli has the talent to score goals for the club, but the team and player are struggling to adapt to each others' style; where Suarez was an energetic dynamo who roamed the pitch, the Italian is a static target.
Raheem Sterling has been the lone bright spark this season, after Daniel Sturridge went down with injury, but Brendan Rodgers has experimented with a number of different formations and line-ups already. He needs to find out his best XI quickly.
Aitor Karanka's Middlesbrough are in superb form, with three wins on the trot to move up to fifth in the Championship table; Grand Leadbitter has been a revelation from midfield with six goals already this season.
With Champions League football already proving a distraction, a cynic could say it would be in Liverpool's best interests to bow out of this competition early.
KICK OFF: Tuesday, 7.45pm
PAST THREE MEETINGS…
Middlesbrough 2 (Alonso og, Tuncay) Liverpool 0, Premier League, February 2009
Liverpool 2 (Pogatetz og, Gerrard) Middlesbrough 1 (Mido) , Premier League, August 2008
Liverpool 3 (Torres x 3) Middlesbrough 2 (Tuncay, Downing), Premier League, February 2008
Middlesbrough have not won a game at Anfield for 25 years, losing 19 and drawing just six of those matches.
Liverpool have progressed past the League Cup third round in nine of the last 12 seasons.
The Reds have won the League Cup a record eight times.
Liverpool to win: 1.7
Middlesbrough to win: 5.5
TV: Live on Sky Sports 1 at 7.45pm.
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