AFC Bournemouth vs Cardiff City
Venue: Vitality Stadium
Referee: Kevin Friend
Bournemouth host newly promoted Cardiff City in the Premier League opener for the two sides, with both teams looking to get their campaigns off to a flying start at the Vitality.
Under the guidance of Eddie Howe, Bournemouth will commence their fourth successive season in the top flight and relegation is far away from their thoughts at this juncture. This is a sign of the Cherries’ progress and speaks volumes about the job Howe has done. They have played some entertaining football in the last couple of years, consolidating their league status in the process.
Most of the personnel will be the same as last season, except for three additions to the squad. Left-back Diego Rico and defensive midfielder Jefferson Lerma were signed from Spain, the latter for a club-record £28 million. David Brooks, an exciting young prospect, came from Sheffield United. However, the former two will be crucial in the present to improve Bournemouth’s defensive prospects.
After experiencing the top flight for three seasons, Bournemouth would like to take the next step by making inroads into the top half. Their best finish was in 2016/17 when they finished ninth. Howe, along with star performers Josh King and Lewis Cook would surely like to go one better. And what better to way to commence that journey with an opening day win in front of their ardent supporters?
Cardiff, on the other hand, will naturally have a different mindset going into the new season. After a hugely successful season last term, they begin the new campaign as favourites to be relegated back to the Championship. Avoiding said relegation would be an achievement in itself for the Welsh side. They will have to defy some steep odds to achieve survival, but don’t rule out Neil Warnock’s side just yet.
The Bluebirds are known for their pragmatic and solid style of play, and they will look to do more of the same against Bournemouth. Their last Premier League venture was an unsuccessful one, as they finished last and got relegated after just one season in 2013/14. Surely they can do better this time around.
Summer recruitment has been at a minimum for Warnock. Three major signings have been made, which are left-back Greg Cunningham, forward Bobby Reid and midfielder Josh Murphy. All of them will be useful additions to a solid squad. Forty points will be more than enough for Cardiff this season; 36 were enough for Southampton last season to survive. Up against a confident Bournemouth side, they will look to get three of those come Saturday.
Bournemouth: The Cherries have some absent players, and for varied reasons. Junior Stanislas has not yet recovered from the knee injury he suffered in April, and he will still take some time to regain full fitness. New man Diego Rico is suspended for the first three games of the season, but Bournemouth have a more than capable Charlie Daniels to fill in.
Star defender Nathan Ake is carrying a knock, and his presence will be a crucial one in the backline. Record signing Jefferson Lerma joined just two days ago so his debut might have to wait. Other than that all players are fit to face Cardiff.
Howe has a couple of calls to make regarding team selection. In midfield, Lewis Cook will surely start, but one of Andrew Surman or Dan Gosling can join them depending on the formation. There are many choices in the wide positions as well, as Marc Pugh, Ryan Fraser, and Josh King will all stake their claim. Upfront, Jermaine Defoe and Callum Wilson will battle it out.
Cardiff City: Neil Warnock has a clean bill of health and has his full squad of players to choose from. The squad is almost identical to the one he worked with last season, and the starting eleven should see no major changes as well.
The defence should sort itself out as no major changes have been made there. Joe Bennett should keep his place over new recruit Greg Cunningham due to his experience. In midfield, Aron Gunnarsson and Craig Bryson will make their case but the former should start due to his physicality and Premier League experience.
Striker Bobby Reid may usurp Kenneth Zohore in the campaign but the first match might as well be too early for that. The formation and tactics will be just like last season, a solid defence which places emphasis on counter-attacks.
Predicted Starting XI’s
Bournemouth: Begovic; Smith, Cook, Ake, Daniels; Cook, Gosling, Fraser, Pugh, King; Wilson.
Cardiff City: Etheridge; Peltier, Bamba, Morrison, Bennett; Ralls, Gunnarsson, Paterson; Hoilett, Zohore, Mendez-Laing.
Prediction: Bournemouth 1 Cardiff City 0
Cardiff will try to make it a cagey affair and attempt to smother Bournemouth’s flowing attack. They should offer little in attack and Bournemouth’s persistence and quality should pay off.