There are a few weeks for a football fan when Premier League matches can feel like a distraction. For Liverpool fans, these next two games are going to feel like two games that are just disrupting the story of their team’s grand ride to the penultimate stage of the Champions League. The first of those two games is against Bournemouth at Anfield on Saturday.
Liverpool have had perhaps the most amazing week under Jurgen Klopp till date. Over two legs of a Champions League quarter-final, they have knocked out a Manchester City team that was considered one of the best sides in Europe this season. The Reds allowed just one goal while scoring five themselves over the two legs. In between the two legs, there was the small matter of the Merseyside derby, which was expectedly less exciting than the two City games. However, Liverpool go into this Bournemouth game in their best form of the season. They certainly will be a bit tired after the midweek trip to the Etihad Stadium, but they must ensure that the exhaustion does not make them slip against the Cherries like they slipped against Swansea after beating Guardiola’s men in January. They cannot yet afford a slip-up because although the fifth-placed Chelsea are 10 points away, they have a game in hand. The Reds must stay focused for their remaining Premier League games, as they need at least 9 points from their five games to ensure their second successive top-four finish.
Eddie Howe’s Bournemouth are not sitting as high in the table as their hosts but they are a comfortable lead above the relegation candidates. In fact, Howe can train his eyes on a top-half finish for Cherries. It would be a huge achievement for Howe and Bournemouth but they have a few challenges to overcome. The first one is visiting Anfield and the second one is hosting Manchester United at Vitality stadium. For the Cherries to reach the top-half and possibly out-do their last season’s points tally (46), they need to grab some points in these two games. Their recent form has been good as they have lost only one game in last six Premier League fixtures – 1-4 to Spurs at home. But they have also won only one of those six games – 2-1 against West Brom at home. Eddie Howe certainly would not mind if his side can notch up one more draw at Anfield.
- Bournemouth have never won at Anfield. In fact, their only victory against Liverpool in all competitions came at Vitality Stadium in December 2016. However, the last time Cherries visited Anfield, they did leave with a point through a 2-2 draw.
- Liverpool come into this game unbeaten in a month, having last tasted defeat on March 10, against Manchester United at Old Trafford. At Anfield, the only defeat they have had was their FA Cup defeat to West Brom in January.
- Liverpool have scored 112 goals in all competitions and 75 in the Premier League thus far. Only Manchester City (90) have scored more in the league. Of the 75, 38 have been scored at Anfield. On the other hand, the Reds have conceded just 10 goals at Anfield this season, 2 of which were penalties.
- The Cherries’ meetings with Liverpool in the Premier League have tended to offer mouthwatering affairs going forward. In the last five league meetings between the clubs, 19 goals have been scored at an average of 3.8 per match
All it took a nervous Liverpool to calm down on Wednesday night at the Etihad was a Mohamed Salah goal – his 38th in all competitions. All the progress that Liverpool has made this season has primarily ridden on Salah’s goals and he does not seem as if he is quite done yet. His response to Harry Kane being awarded the goal against Stoke City last week suggests that he is not as agnostic to his chances of winning the Golden Boot as his behavior sometimes suggests. Not that he needs to worry. He is scoring at a xG per 90 of 0.78 in the Premier League, meaning that if he continues at that rate, he is likely to add at least 4 more goals to his tally of 29, which will break many a record.
Bournemouth are not as free-scoring aside as their hosts on Saturday. Two of their forwards Josh King and Callum Wilson have contributed 9 goals each. However, Wilson has scored seven and assisted two, while King has scored six. Wilson has a goal and assist each against Chelsea as well as Arsenal, but his form has dipped since the Chelsea game in early February. Currently, he is eight appearances without a goal or an assist. His xG per 90 of 0.27 and xAssist per 90 of 0.08 mean that he does have a 35% chance of scoring or assisting a goal if he is on the field for 90 minutes. Callum’s form, if it turns, could be key for the Cherries to finish in the top-half of the table.
For Liverpool, Emre Can, Adam Lallana, Joel Matip and Joe Gomez will all remain sidelined due to injury. The Reds can, however, welcome back their skipper Jordan Henderson, who had missed Wednesday’s trip to Manchester due to suspension. Dominic Solanke and Danny Ings could both get some game time on Saturday, depending on how Klopp chooses to rotate his side.
Bournemouth may not be able to start with the former Red – Jordan Ibe on Saturday as he sat out the last game with illness. Tyrion Mings, Junior Stanislas, and Adam Smith are all injured and will not play on Saturday.
Both the teams have immediate targets in their sights and both will look to Saturday’s game as a step closer to their respective targets. However, given Liverpool’s current form, their home record, and the fact that they need a few more points to secure a top-four berth means that they are more likely to emerge victorious on Saturday than their guests from the South.