By Liam Baldock
Forget the 40 point mark, for Bournemouth, a top half finish is in sight as they welcome Liverpool this Sunday to the Vitality Stadium. Surpassing 40 points last weekend in their triumph over Aston Villa, Bournemouth sit in 11th place, only seven points behind their opposition.
It won’t be easy for Bournemouth, facing a bouncing Liverpool side fresh off their Istanbul-like comeback against European giants Borussia Dortmund on Thursday. The good news for Cherries is that Jurgen Klopp is set to mix up the team-sheet to keep the side fresh.
Liverpool have only lost one in their last six, boasting an improved record under their new manager, but it’s Bournemouth who steal the show for impressive performances. Eddie Howe’s men have only lost two games since February, both against top four rivals Tottenham and Manchester City.
The reverse fixture earlier in this Premier League season was controversial following many decisions given in Liverpool’s favour. Cherries were wrongfully defeated after a disallowed Tommy Elphick goal within five minutes and a Liverpool goal which looked to be offside was given. This was the catalyst in defining the difficulty of the Premier League for Cherries, something that didn’t take too long to grip in the coming weeks.
Liverpool have never lost a competitive game against Bournemouth, winning six and drawing twice – a record Eddie Howe will be itching to get straight this time around.
In terms of team news, Bournemouth were boosted last weekend by including striker Callum Wilson in their match day squad for the first time since September. However, Eddie Howe has pleaded fans to be patient with the strikers return admitting the best of him will be seen next year.
Junior Stanislas looks to be in contention to return from a hamstring injury, but Benik Afobe, Adam Smith and Harry Arter are all ruled out.
Liverpool will be without the suspended Emre Can who has been in excellent form following the appointment of Jurgen Klopp earlier this season, with Joe Allen looking to take his place.
Expect a re-shuffle from Klopp however, who could hand Sheyi Ojo a start, with Christian Benteke out with a minor injury.
Liam Baldock’s verdict:
AFC Bournemouth 1 Liverpool 1
This will be a game where we see an explosive performance from both teams who have both demonstrated an excellent high-energy pressing game throughout the course of this season.
Bournemouth have exceeded themselves this year and so will take huge confidence week after week in their performances, so at this stage in the season I really can’t see them losing to a mixed up Liverpool side at home.
Despite their European heroics, I think the game will come too soon for Liverpool, who may look to focus on the Europa League as their main competition. It will be a good chance to try out some younger talent for Liverpool, but Bournemouth’s aesthetic, passing game may be a bit too much for them.
I can’t see either side winning, but I can see a goal or two in this game for sure. I’m going with 1-1, Bournemouth being a lot luckier than they were at Anfield.