LIVERPOOL VS BOURNEMOUTH
| Saturday, February 9th |
Premier League | Anfield
3:00 PM GMT /10:00 AM EST
Three points are necessary against Bournemouth on Saturday for Liverpool to reclaim the top spot in the Premier League. A couple of frustrating draws against Leicester City and West Ham allowed Manchester City to leapfrog Liverpool in the table. But if they come up short at Anfield this weekend, Liverpool will have ceded all the open space between them and Pep Guardiola’s side.
Bournemouth’s results have been mostly unpredictable over the last month or so. They’re the ones who beat Chelsea 4-0, but they also lost to both Everton and Cardiff City without scoring a single goal in either match.
Eddie Howe has led his sometimes impressive side up to tenth place in the Premier League. Howe is undoubtably a talented manager but he has struggled to get Bournemouth to punch more consistently above their weight this season.
A January move for Dominic Solanke shows the Cherries need for more goals. Howe generally runs out a pair of strikers, but both Callum Wilson and David Brooks are out for a string of weeks. So, Liverpool’s defense is likely to face up against Solanke at Anfield alongside Joshua King.
Projected Liverpool Lineup (4-3-3)
Alisson; Milner, Matip, Van Dijk, Robertson; Wijnaldum, Fabinho, Keita; Salah, Firmino, Mané
The reverse fixture at the Vitality Stadium was a memorable win for Jürgen Klopp’s side. Liverpool left 4-0 victors thanks to a hat-trick from Mohamed Salah and a Steve Cook own goal.
Interestingly, James Milner was Klopp’s right-back that day, leaving Trent Alexander-Arnold on the bench. Naby Keita was also in that winning team in lieu of either Jordan Henderson or Adam Lallana who subbed on in the second half.
Trent could potentially make a late fitness test but Milner was good for the job back in December and it’s worth giving the young defender some extra time to recovery from his injury.
I’m all for giving Keita another go in the starting XI and the player clearly knows how to make it happen against Bournemouth. Klopp was noncommittal when asked about the availability of either Henderson or Gini Wijnaldum for Saturday’s match but the manager did reveal that both players had joined team training on Thursday and appeared to come through in good condition. Having one or the other in the midfield three has proved a deciding factor in Liverpool’s stability.
Bournemouth are an attacking side but Howe’s plan will be to defend in numbers, force Liverpool into turnovers in the attacking third, and spring counter attacks. Klopp’s team will need to be diligent at covering for one other when players get caught up the pitch in attack. And Joël Matip will need to be doubly diligent at protecting Milner if the English midfielder fills in for Trent.
They are all must-win games with the margins so thin at the top. Liverpool have all the impetus to control their position going into Saturday’s match but the team has to pull together at Anfield this weekend and put on a dominant performance against Bournemouth. Three points means staying three points above City. And at the rate we’re going, at the end of the season, a single point could be all that separates the winner from everyone else. But have fun out there.
What the Managers Had to Say
Jürgen Klopp: “We will be ready with each fibre of our bodies to fight for everything. At the end of the season I just want to be able to say we gave everything. You can’t have 62 points without doing really good and we have the chance to get a few more.”
Eddie Howe: “We’ve always proved that we can put our game together against these teams and produce some really strong performances. The results, that’s always a difficult one to define.”
Referee: Anthony Taylor Assistants: Gary Beswick, Adam Nunn Fourth official: Mike Dean
Kickoff is set for 3:00 PM GMT/10:00 AM EST tomorrow, and television listings for the match can be found on LiveSoccerTV.
In the meantime, and as always, we’ll be keeping you updated with all the buildup to the game, including team news as it’s released, our live matchday thread, and post-match recaps from The Liverpool Offside staff. If you want to join the discussion, sign up for an SB Nation account to have your say on the action as it happens.