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AFC Bournemouth vs Liverpool: 08/12/2018 – match preview and predicted starting XIs

AFC Bournemouth vs Liverpool

Date: 08/12/2018 

K/O: 12.30

Venue: The Vitality Stadium

TV: Sky Sports Main Event

Referee: Lee Mason

“Tis’ the season” of football as the games just keep rolling, and after a breathless midweek schedule, “Gegenpressing” Liverpool are set to face another tough test at south coast in the early lunchtime kick-off. With the Reds playing first on Saturday, Jurgen Klopp’s side will climb into first, before Man City begin their tough away trip at Chelsea later in the evening.

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Eddie Howe’s Bournemouth sit sixth after a promising start to the season, winning six of their opening eight games in all competitions. Tough fixtures and injuries meant they have found results hard to come by in recent weeks, losing their last four Premier League games before a welcome win last time out against David Wagner’s Huddersfield Town.

Bournemouth have lost each of their four matches this season against the ‘big 6’. However, unlike in previous seasons, they haven’t looked completely mismatched at any point. They have managed to stay in the games competitively throughout.

It has been clear from watching them this season that the quality of their football has improved. Yet what is even more impressive is that this is largely down to coaching rather than signing new players to simply improve the quality of personnel available to Eddie Howe.

This is one of many reasons why Eddie Howe is held in such high regard in the game. In an era where managers increasingly look to the chequebook to solve problems in their team, he backs himself to solve the problems on the training pitches.

It’s usually a fixture laden with goals as they average around three-and-a-half from their six Premier League encounters, but a combination of the hectic schedule and the early kick-off may just mean this one is a bit more sedate than usual.

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AFC Bournemouth: Form and Stats

The Cherries have been in reasonably fine form, despite a lack of points to show for it, and are a dangerous outfit at home; they were largely second best when beating Huddersfield in midweek and it’s this time of year when squads are really tested to the limit.

However, appearances can be deceptive. Despite their fine start to 2018/19, Eddie Howe’s side have actually taken three points fewer than they won in the corresponding fixtures last season. Has their impressive start been borne out of a relatively kind fixture list?

The home side have two players in red-hot form whom they can call upon. Ryan Fraser and Callum Wilson each assisted a goal for each other in the 2-1 win over the Terriers earlier this week. In total, each has set up a goal for the other three times in 2018/19, which is the joint-most of any combination in the Premier League.

Wilson is in arguably the form of his career, with seven goals and two assists for club and country in his last 10 appearances.

Liverpool: Form and Stats

Jurgen Klopp has seen his Liverpool team go toe to toe with Manchester City so far this season. Even though the Merseysiders have not been spectacular like in the 2017-18 campaign, results have been much more consistent. The team has enjoyed a lot of balance and it is largely provided by an impressive defence, which features players like Virgil van Dijk and Alisson.

As a result, even if Liverpool have not been scoring goals at the same pace as last season, they have been able to get much better results. Klopp will be keen on continuing this run and will be hopeful of seeing Manchester City drop points at Stamford Bridge.

Liverpool may be exhausted from their exertions at Turf Moor on Wednesday night, having played the day after Bournemouth defeated Huddersfield, and will be distracted by thoughts of their must-win match with Napoli on Tuesday. It’s a punishing schedule, though at least none of Klopp’s first choice front three played more than half an hour at Burnley.

Mohamed Salah was able to score in both meetings against Bournemouth last season. Even though the Egyptian’s form has not been spectacular, the rest provided by missing the starting lineup against Burnley will help Salah’s energy levels coming into this match and an important week. Huddersfield had several counter-attacking opportunities during the weekend and Salah can profit from the same.

Key Men

Ryan Fraser – AFC Bournemouth

Scottish international Fraser is the Premier League’s top creative talent this season with seven assists already. He has created 15 clear-cut chances for Eddie Howe’s men almost half of which have been put in the back of the net. To give that figure some context, only seven players set up more golden opportunities than that in the whole of last season, and only one – Kevin de Bruyne, obviously – set up more than 18.

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Marauding Trent Alexander-Arnold will need to be at his best to shackle the young Scot. Fraser isn’t afraid to put in a shift defensively either, which will certainly be required against Liverpool.

Roberto Firmino – Liverpool

Liverpool’s Brazilian no 9 has been below his usual best this season, however he is slowly coming into his own with 2 goals and an assist in his last 3. With Mane doubtful, Klopp would ideally want Salah and Firmino to wrap things up in the first hour or so and get some rest before their must win game against Napoli midweek.

Firmino has noticeably dropped deeper, this term, and plays exclusively as a false 9 in the new Klopp setup, allowing Mane and Salah to converge centrally from the wings. This position would mean one of Jefferson Lerma and his midfield partner will have stay with his runs and cut his quick exchange of passes.

Roberto Firmino has formed a liking for Eddie Howe’s men previously, scoring five goals and setting up two, in his last five Premier League appearances against them.

AFC Bournemouth v Liverpool | Opta Stats

Bournemouth have lost four of their six Premier League matches against Liverpool (W1 D1), losing both matches last season by an aggregate score of 0-7.

Liverpool’s only defeat in 13 previous matches against Bournemouth in all competitions (W9 D3) came at the Vitality Stadium in the Premier League in December 2016; the Reds lost 3-4.

Bournemouth had 43 shots in their first three Premier League games against Liverpool, while facing 47; in their last three, they’ve had just 20 shots while facing 61.

Bournemouth’s win against Huddersfield in the midweek fixtures ended a run of four successive defeats for the Cherries.

Liverpool have won 39 points from 15 league games this season, which is their best-ever start to a top-flight league season. Only six sides (including Manchester City this season) have won more points from their opening 15 league games to a top-flight season (based on three points for a win).

Against no side has Bournemouth’s Eddie Howe lost more games as a manager in all competitions than he has against Liverpool (7, level with Man City).

Liverpool’s Roberto Firmino has been involved in five goals in his last five Premier League appearances against Bournemouth (3 goals, 2 assists).

Bournemouth’s Callum Wilson has scored eight goals in his 15 Premier League games this season – he last scored more in a league campaign in 2014-15, when he netted 20 goals in 45 Championship games in Bournemouth’s promotion season.

Alisson has remained unbeaten in his opening 15 league matches as a Liverpool player; equalling the club record in the Premier League set by Javier Mascherano in November 2007. If he plays and doesn’t lose this match, he’ll set the new outright club record.

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Team News

Dan Gosling will face a late fitness test after receiving a scan on the knee injury he picked up in the warm-up against Manchester City last weekend, while Adam Smith is out until the new year.

Midfielder Lewis Cook also has been ruled out for up to nine months with a ruptured anterior cruciate ligament

Sadio Mane and Andy Robertson will face late fitness tests after missing the Burnley game due to minor injuries, while Joe Gomez faces six weeks out after coming off injured at Turf Moor.

Fabinho, Wijnaldum, Salah & Firmino all look likely to return to the starting XI having been rested against Burnley

Predicted Starting XIs

AFC Bournemouth (4-3-3): Begovic; Francis, Cook, Ake, Daniels; Brooks, Surman, Lerma, Fraser; King; Wilson.

Liverpool (4-2-3-1): Alisson; Alexander-Arnold, Lovren, Van Dijk, Moreno; Fabinho, Keita, Wijnaldum; Shaqiri, Salah, Firmino.

Prediction: Bournemouth 1 Liverpool 2

This game is likely going to boil down to performances in both boxes. Perhaps little separates these two sides on form between the boxes at the moment. However, the difference world-class talent makes in the form of Salah, van Dijk and Alisson should help Liverpool see off Bournemouth.

The Cherries have the attacking quality to threaten Liverpool in this match, but the Reds continue to grind out results this season and the prospect of moving top of the table – if only for a few hours – should be enough to see them get the job done at Dean Court.

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