by Jonathan Nagioff (@jonathannagioff)
AFC Bournemouth manager Eddie Howe insists that he is not focused on what lies ahead, as his side face a huge game against Crystal Palace on Saturday.
The Cherries can steer clear of the relegation zone with a win at Selhurst Park and eight points ahead of their opponents, who are in 18th place.
The match is pivotal for both sides who are scrapping for points as the festive fixtures approach - but especially for Bournemouth, who face three of the top four sides in their next three Premier League fixtures.
The South Coast side have back-to-back away games, starting with ‘The Eagles’ on Saturday followed by a trip to Manchester United.
Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool side visit the Vitality Stadium a week later before a mammoth test against league leaders Manchester City, with a Carabao Cup quarter final tie with Chelsea in between.
But Howe is pleased with his squad depth ahead of a tricky month.
He told the media at his pre-match press conference: “It was always my plan to rotate in the last three games.
“I think it benefited the team and the individuals that came in.
“We will rotate the team this month because you need the players to be ready mentally and physically.
“You have to put the upcoming fixtures out of your mind, it has to be the here and now.
“We’re not looking at the five-point gap, we’re looking to whether we can beat Crystal Palace.”
The Cherries picked up a crucial point last week against South Coast rivals Southampton in a 1-1 draw at the Vitality Stadium.
Midfielder Ryan Fraser’s strike just before half time was cancelled out by Charlie Austin, who bagged his fourth goal of the season just after the interval.
It was Fraser’s first goal since January in a 3-3 draw with Arsenal and Howe was impressed with the winger’s overall performance.
He said, “I was really pleased with his performance against Southampton, he brought energy quality and a very important goal.
“I love his characteristics and what he can bring to our side.”
Despite there being a 5-point gap between the two sides, Palace are no mean feat especially at home, where they have been particularly strong in recent weeks.
Roy Hodgson’s side are currently four games unbeaten and have not lost at home since September, which came before the former England boss was appointed.
That record at Selhurst Park has included a convincing 2-1 win against Chelsea as well as a victory over Mark Hughes’ Stoke City side in their last home game.
AFC Bournemouth face Crystal Palace at 3pm on Saturday.