After the busy international break, the Barclays Premier League action returns as AFC Bournemouth host title-chasing Manchester City at the Vitality Stadium.
Cherries will be hoping to bounce back after a disappointing 3-0 defeat to Tottenham at White Hart Lane last time out, as will the visitors who lost to bitter rivals Manchester United after only managing a draw against relegation-threatened Norwich the week before.
With three vital wins in March, Cherries’ Premier League status is looking more and more likely as they sit comfortably in 13th on 38 points - twelve points about the drop zone. Knowing that no team has ever been relegated from the Premier League with more than 40 points, Eddie Howe’s men can now start to look up the table.
On the other hand Manchester City will be feeling the pressure. One of the title favourites at the start of the season, a run of just one win in their last six Premier League games, including losses to title rivals Leicester City and Tottenham has left them in fourth place, fifteen points behind Leicester and in danger on losing out on a Champions League spot.
This game promises to be another David vs Goliath clash at the Vitality Stadium with David under little pressure to perform against Goliath with the world on his shoulders.
Harry Arter and Joshua King are both 50/50 following respective hamstring and Achilles problems. Tyrone Mings is definitely out following a set-back in his long-term recovery but Callum Wilson could make a surprise comeback after returning to full fitness last week. The star striker is still Cherries’ top scorer this season with five goals, despite not featuring since the 4-3 win over West Ham in August when he scored a hat-trick.
The visitors travel to the Vitality Stadium without first team goalkeeper Joe Hart and captain Vincent Kompany. Star players Raheem Sterling and Yaya Toure are also ruled out. Kevin De Bruyne and Samir Nasri could return following long absences.
Cherries enjoyed a very memorable trip to Maine Road in 1989 that very nearly prevented the promotion of the Sky Blues.
Two minutes into the game and City had the upper hand and by halftime they were leading 3-0 through goals from Paul Moulden (2) and Trevor Morley (1).
A series of errors plagued Manchester City throughout the second half and all-hard work seemed to come undone as Bournemouth scored twice to get them back in the game.
Deep into injury time, a clumsy challenge from Andy Hinchcliffe inside the penalty box gave Cherries a chance to tie things up.
Luther Blissett smashed home the spot-kick on the ninety-seventh minute to secure the visitors a vital point and leave the Blues’ potential promotion, in limbo.
Manchester City fought to get their happy ending through an improved performance against Bradford a week later and obtained promotion with a 1-1 draw.
Sports Editor Liam Grace’s verdict
AFC Bournemouth 2 Manchester City 1
The Vitality Stadium is the last place in the Premier League teams will want to go on a bad run of form, especially with a team like Manchester City with so much pressure and expectation - just ask rivals Manchester United.
This will be an incredibly tough game for City. A loss coupled with a win for either United or West Ham could see them drop out of the top four so it is vital they leave with all three points, but with injuries in key areas and their poor form on the road I just can’t see it happening. The Sky Blues may also already be looking over their shoulders to the PSG game in mid-week in their first Champions League quarter-final in the club’s history.
Eddie Howe will be expecting his Bournemouth side to put in a top class performance following the 3-0 loss to Spurs and they will only be helped by the 11,000 or so fans who will make City feel very uncomfortable. Of course, it will be no walk over, City won the reverse fixture 5-1 after all and still possess world class talent who can turn around a game within minutes.
But I’m backing Cherries to walk away as winners in a closely fought battle to all but seal Premier League survival.