Liverpool vs. Middlesbrough: Jurgen Klopp Talks Top 4 in Pre-Match EPL Presser

Rory MarsdenFeatured ColumnistMay 19, 2017

Liverpool's German manager Jurgen Klopp waits for kick off of the English Premier League football match between West Ham United and Liverpool at The London Stadium, in east London on May 14, 2017. / AFP PHOTO / Daniel LEAL-OLIVAS / RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE. No use with unauthorized audio, video, data, fixture lists, club/league logos or 'live' services. Online in-match use limited to 75 images, no video emulation. No use in betting, games or single club/league/player publications.  /         (Photo credit should read DANIEL LEAL-OLIVAS/AFP/Getty Images)

Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp believes opinion has changed on the Reds' prospects and said qualifying for the UEFA Champions League would be the "icing on the cake" in terms of attracting key summer targets. 

A home victory over Middlesbrough on Sunday for the Reds would guarantee them a top-four finish in the Premier League for the first time since 2014 and only the second time in eight seasons.

Klopp said ahead of the clash, though, that he believes Liverpool have become a more attractive club since he took charge, per James Pearce of the Liverpool Echo:

"We are a really interesting project. Everyone can see from the outside. Perspective has changed and we feel that in the talks. They have seen our way and they have seen our football. Champions League would be icing on the cake."

Liverpool's clash with Boro is their final game of the 2016-17 campaign, and a victory could see them finish as high as third—one of the automatic qualifying spots for the Champions League—should Manchester City slip up at Watford.

Liverpool's Brazilian midfielder Philippe Coutinho (L) shoots past West Ham United's Welsh defender James Collins (2R) to score the second goal during the English Premier League football match between West Ham United and Liverpool at The London Stadium, i

However, there is also a danger the Reds could drop to fifth if they fail to beat already-relegated Boro and Arsenal prevail against Everton.

Even without a victory Liverpool could finish the season in the Champions League spots, but Klopp wants his side to pick up all three points, and he is eager for a fast start, per Joe Mewis in the Mirror

"We have to perform, we have to win, if we have enough points then we deserve it. If not, then we don't. ... The best thing would be if we are 4-0 up after two minutes but that won’t be possible. Starting well is very important."

In the reverse fixture in December, Liverpool thrashed Boro 3-0 at the Riverside Stadium. 

A similarly convincing win at Anfield would be no surprise, and the Reds should ease to victory to ensure their top-four finish.

However, Jordan Henderson will still be missing and Roberto Firmino remains a doubt, per ESPN FC's Ben Dinnery:

Nerves could play a big part with all Sunday's final Premier League matches kicking off at the same time.

If Liverpool go behind or fail to score early, the atmosphere at Anfield will likely become quite tense, and Klopp will need to galvanise his players into action.

Ideally, though, as Klopp said, an early goal or two will settle the nerves, and Liverpool have more than enough quality in their ranks to finish the season convincingly against a poor Middlesbrough side.