Did you know, 42% of marriages in the UK end in separation? From blushing bride to despairing divorcee, the transformation can often be swift. It is never pleasant. One thing’s for sure, the Premier League honeymoon is well and truly over for AFC Bournemouth. After a 2-0 win against Sunderland in September, the Cherries found themselves in 11th. They were full of hope, full of expectation. Now, with Callum Wilson crocked and ten goals leaked in their last two games, they have slipped to 17th, only two points clear of the drop zone. It may not be time to file the papers quite yet, but Eddie Howe’s relationship with the top flight is in severe jeopardy.
This Saturday’s fixture sees Bournemouth make one of their shortest away trips of the season; a brief journey along the coast to St Mary’s. Their opponents, Southampton, couldn’t be in a richer vein of form. Unbeaten since September 23rd in all competitions, Ronald Koeman seems to be working his magic once again. A win for the Saints could lift them into the Europa League spots; a tournament they have already crashed out of this season. Some fans will have their eyes set on a bigger prize. With Chelsea struggling, and the likes of West Ham and Leicester occupying the top five, Southampton could well stake a claim for a Champions League place if this purple patch continues.
It’s never easy finding head to head stats for Premier League teams facing AFC Bournemouth, so recently have they earned their place among the footballing elite. Indeed, there have been only three fixtures between these two sides since the turn of the century. All three went the way of the Saints, with two victories in League One, and one in the League Cup (3-1, 2-0, 2-0).
Going back even further, Southampton have not lost to Bournemouth since 1987. In that year, Margaret Thatcher was elected Prime Minister for the third time, and the Simpsons made its television debut. That should give you a bit of context as to just how long ago that was.
Both sides rested key players in their Capital One Cup ties on Wednesday, with varying success. Bournemouth lost 1-0 at Anfield, whereas Southampton beat Aston Villa 2-1. This squad rotation is not uncommon for Premier League sides, so we are likely to see a return to the usual line-ups on Saturday.
Matt Ritchie, scorer of the fastest Premier League goal so far this season (49 seconds), should feature at St Mary’s. He has been one of Bournemouth’s shining lights this season. The injuries to Wilson, Mings and Gradel continue to frustrate the Cherries.
Sadio Mane saw red against Liverpool on Super Sunday after two bookable offences and is unavailable for selection. James Ward-Prowse could deputise. Jay Rodriguez and Shane Long are still carrying injuries.
Virgil van Dijk – I was fortunate enough to see Virgil van Dijk make his Southampton debut away at West Brom in September. He looked a class act, a complete footballer. Following his £13m move from Parkhead, the Dutchman has already scored twice and is fast becoming a fan favourite. He has settled quickly, not only in the Premier League, but also in the Southampton side. His ability on the ball makes him the perfect fit for the club’s style of play. He made the most passes out of any player on the pitch at Anfield last weekend, and would have netted his third goal of the campaign but for a good save from Simon Mignolet. Bournemouth have scored in each of their last eight games. Van Dijk will be looking to put an end to that impressive run.
Artur Boruc / Adam Federici – Let’s face it, Boruc had a stinker last Sunday. I can’t remember a Premier League goalkeeping performance as error strewn, not to mention as costly. Battered 5-1 at home to Tottenham, Boruc was responsible for three of the visitor’s goals. He had, ironically, been brought into the side after Adam Federici shipped 5 away at Manchester City the week before. Clearly, the change did not have the effect Eddie Howe had intended. I have a degree of pity for goalkeepers, any mistake they make is usually punished with a goal for the opposition. If Boruc starts this weekend (and it is a big ‘if’), he will have to forget about last weekend’s mistakes and put in one hell of a shift. If he doesn’t, his side are unlikely to come away with any points. He was left out of the squad for the Capital One Cup tie in midweek. Federici played that night and may well get the nod on Saturday. Whoever starts between the sticks will have an important role to play.
Southampton will see this as a chance to move up the league and flex their muscles. Graziano Pelle looks very tough to stop at the moment, and I don’t think Bournemouth will be able to do what Chelsea and Manchester United could not. Without Callum Wilson, the Cherries look light up front. I can’t see Glenn Murray scoring enough to keep them in the league.
Southampton 3-0 Bournemouth
If you agree, you can back favourites Southampton at 8/13 with SportingBet.
The draw is 16/5 with Paddy Power.
If you fancy Bournemouth to cause an away day shock, you can find odds as high as 5/1 with Bet365.