What Eddie Howe has accomplished at Bournemouth is nothing sort of a Football Manager’s dream save. 200 games ago, in October 2012, he joined his boyhood club as a manager in League One and four years and a couple of months later, his side takes on Liverpool in the Premier League knowing that they have a slight buffer of points above the relegation zone.
Bournemouth play an interesting, passing as well as pressing style of football and have troubled established Premier League sides such as Spurs, Everton and Stoke in the first third of the season. But Liverpool pose a sterner test compared to any that the Cherries have faced so far.
Although Bournemouth have taken points from top and mid-table sides in the Premier League already this season, their recent form showcases their inconsistencies well.
In their last five matches Bournemouth has won one and drawn one, while losing three – getting four points in the process. In the 3-1 loss against Arsenal last weekend, their overall frailties, in both attack and defense were very prominent. They have scored only 15 goals this season, with seven of those coming from dead-ball situations (2 penalties), while the 19 goals they have leaked at the other end in just nine games point to the possibility of a loss against the league’s most prolific scorers.
Liverpool are slightly impeded by fitness concerns but one draw and four wins in the last five, while scoring 14 goals and giving away only four goals point to a very prolific team looking to regain the top spot from Chelsea. While injuries to Coutinho and Sturridge, as well as an only partially-fit Firmino and Lallana could put a spanner in the Reds’ attack. However, Divock Origi has shown over the last two games that he was clearly waiting for such a chance to get back in to the first-team. Liverpool are also starting to show a defensive spine as they have kept three clean-sheets in the last three matches (including the League Cup quarter-final vs Leeds United).
- Bournemouth have never won against Liverpool in any competition since 1927 (2 draws, 7 losses)
- Bournemouth find it difficult to score against the Reds in general and have never scored more than a single goal in any fixture. They have netted only twice in their last five games against Liverpool.
- Liverpool have covered more distance (1514.2 km) and attempted more sprints (7706) than any other Premier League club this season. Their captain, Henderson has covered more than 10% of this distance all by himself (155 km).
In a team devoid of an attacking threat, Stanislas stands out as he has contributed to 40% of the Cherries’ goals (6/15, 3 goals, 3 assists) in the league. Although his standout performance was against Hull City (2 goals and an assist), he also hit the only goal against Liverpool’s neighbors Everton as well as providing assists against Watford and Stoke. Whenever he has scored or assisted a goal this season, Bournemouth haven’t lost the game. With a shot accuracy of 63% and a shot conversion rate of 19%, it is no wonder that Stanislas scores or assists a goal every 110 minutes. Now he has not scored or assisted for more than 130 minutes, since his assist for Ake against Stoke. That is the only ominous sign for Liverpool on Sunday.
Despite being an injury-doubt for starting the game, Firmino could be the goal-scorer that Liverpool need in the absence of both Coutinho and Sturridge. He has scored five and assisted three goals thus far and his shot accuracy and conversion are almost identical to Stanislas.
In the corresponding fixture last year, Firmino and Sturridge scored one goal each for Liverpool to beat their hosts 1-2. Sturridge is not available on Sunday and Firmino might have to do the scoring by himself. He is involved in a Liverpool goal every 130 minutes, and he has neither assisted, nor scored a goal for more than 200 minutes. He can be considered due to deliver a goal or two very soon.
For Bournemouth Andrew Surman is still out with his hamstring problem, while Charlie Daniels’ hip injury could rule him out too, giving Eddie Howe a headache in defense. Ex-red Jordan Ibe could also be doubtful to face his old team. Goalkeeper Artur Boruc and midfielder Lewis Cook remain sidelined due to injury. But Jack Wilshere, who is on loan from Arsenal is likely to feature, providing some creativity and flair for the home side.
Liverpool’s injury list has grown a lot over the last seven days. Coutinho is out till 2017, while a calf problem is likely to keep Daniel Sturridge sidelined as well. Adam Lallana and Roberto Firmino both trained on Thursday, prompting Jurgen Klopp to suggest that they could be involved on Sunday. Sadio Mane will have to play in his third game in eight days and could be fatigued a bit. The same goes for Divock Origi but unlike the Senegalese, Origi has rarely been used this season and should be raring to go. It is possible that to ensure enough attacking options, Klopp decides to include Liverpool’s youngest every goal scorer Ben Woodburn in the squad for Vitality stadium. There are no other changes for long-term absentees such as Sakho or Ings.
Bournemouth need a win or at least a point to stay clear of the relegation mess that is likely to ensue at the bottom of the table. But despite the visitors arriving with an enfeebled attack, the head-to-head history between the sides, Liverpool’s current form and Bournemouth’s inconsistency suggests a result in the visitors’ favor.
If Liverpool’s defense can keep Junior Stanislas quiet and if their attackers muster enough grit to grab a couple of goals similar to Sunderland and Leeds, the Reds should be able to take home all three points and stick to their pursuit of the summit.
Bournemouth 1 – 3 Liverpool