By Alex Stevens

Paul Merson has backed Liverpool to beat Middlesbrough on Wednesday night but believes the pressure is getting to Jurgen Klopp.

The Sky Sports pundit claims that manager Klopp’s scathing assessment of Gary Neville at his media briefing on Monday was evidence of the German being affected by the title race.

Klopp reacted to analysis of the performances of under-fire goalkeeper Loris Karius by accepting James Carragher’s verdict, but dismissed the comments made by Gary Neville.

Klopp delivered the withering put-down that former Manchester United defender Neville struggled to judge players when he was the manager of Valencia and should not be given such a high profile punditry role by his employers.

“The pressure is getting to Jurgen Klopp,” Merson told the Sky Sports website. “Everything was going well at the start of the season, it was all nice and jokey, now he is having a go at Gary Neville because he is giving his opinion. That is what happens, it’s the pressure.

“This is why it’s the best league in the world, because anybody can beat anybody on any given day if you don’t turn up. That’s what happening.”

Merson backed Liverpool to win 2-1 at the Riverside on Wednesday night but warned that their defence has to improve if they are to challenge for the title.

“Defensively Liverpool are not good enough; can they keep a clean sheet? I will go Liverpool to win just because they are good going forward, but their Achilles’ heel is at the back,” he added to the Sky website.

“Other teams will always be in the game against them because they will always have belief that Liverpool will give you a chance.”

Liverpool are third in the table heading into Wednesday’s fixture and can climb to second if Arsenal lose and the goal difference equation works in their favour.

By contrast, Middlesbrough are locked in a relegation battle after accumulating a haul of 15 points from their 15 league matches this season.

Aitor Karanka’s side are in 15th place but they are just three points ahead of Swansea in the third relegation spot.

In other Liverpool news, Klopp has given the green light for the Merseysiders to clinch a January midfield signing.