Liverpool vs AFC Bournemouth
TV: BT Sport
Referee: Paul Tierney
Liverpool host Bournemouth on Saturday lunchtime at Anfield in a crucial game for both teams.
Although both sides have very different priorities this season, both come into this fixture in poor form. Out of nowhere, Liverpool have gone from impregnable and invincible to vulnerable and beatable. Three losses in their last four matches in all competitions will leave Eddie Howe and his charges perhaps fancying their chances of nicking a positive result.
Bournemouth, however, have not picked up a point away from home since December, and their poor form has seen them slip into the relegation zone. The Cherries produced a decent performance last time out, with Howe focussing on the positives following their 2-2 draw at home to Chelsea.
History is certainly on Liverpool’s side however. The last five matches between these two sides have seen the Reds win by an aggregate scoreline of 17-0. The issue that Saturday’s visitors have had in the past against Liverpool is they are too naïve; they try and match Liverpool toe-to-toe and just get overrun by the Merseysiders’ superiority.
Howe should take note of Watford manager Nigel Pearson’s tactics last weekend as how to limit Liverpool’s attacking prowess. Dropping into a back six without the ball helps scupper the space for both the front three and the attacking full-backs. This tactic nullifies Jurgen Klopp’s two-pronged attacking strategy.
While this is likely to be just a blip for Liverpool, Jurgen Klopp will know that a comfortable win on Saturday will add buckets of confidence to a squad who face a series of titanic tussles in the coming weeks. Trips in the Premier League to Everton and Manchester City are preceded by next week’s Champions League last 16-second leg against Atletico Madrid. With questions surrounding Liverpool’s lack of attacking threat being raised in recent weeks, a thumping victory against an out-of-form Bournemouth is exactly what is needed for Liverpool players and fans alike.
Liverpool remain without the talismanic Jordan Henderson, who should return in midweek against Atleti. Naby Keita is the only other fresh injury doubt, with Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain likely to start in midfield alongside Fabinho and Gini Wijnaldum. Liverpool fans will be happy to see Joe Gomez return to Premier League action after Dejan Lovren’s performance against Watford last weekend.
Bournemouth will be without Harry Wilson due to him being on loan from Liverpool, while Lewis Cook remains an injury doubt. If Cook plays, it is likely that Howe will adopt a 4-5-1 formation, with Josh King and Ryan Fraser on the wings. They will have to put in a shift at both ends of the pitch if the Cherries are to take anything from this fixture.
Predicted Starting XIs
Liverpool (4-3-3): Alisson; Alexander-Arnold, Gomez, Van Dijk, Robertson; Fabinho, Wijnaldum, Oxlade-Chamberlain; Salah, Firmino, Mane
Bournemouth (4-5-1): Ramsdale; Stacey, S. Cook, Ake, Smith; Fraser, Billing, Lerma, L. Cook, King; Wilson
Score Prediction: Liverpool 3-1 Bournemouth
Given the history of this fixture and Bournemouth’s nature for attacking football, I would expect goals in this one. Liverpool’s defensive frailties from earlier in the season have re-appeared, but the space left by Bournemouth should leave plenty for their front three to exploit.