Premier League 17/18 Week 34: Liverpool vs Bournemouth – Lineups, Preview and Prediction
The Reds bring their attention back to domestic matters with the visit of a Cherries side looking to push into a top half position
17:30 BST, Saturday 14th April, Anfield (Liverpool, England) BT Sport
Liverpool’s season is already being hailed a success by many onlookers, however, they can still win or lose much during the few matches which remain. Sitting third in the league, they are level on points with an in-form Tottenham and know any slip in the league is likely to be punished by Spurs. But while they have the Premier League’s longest current run of unbeaten (18) home games, they’re likely to remember they only picked up a single point against the Cherries last season.
For Eddie Howe’s team, they may already be safe in the top-flight this season but they still have much to prove to everyone. Having spent most of this season flying low under the radar, they can take advantage of Liverpool’s weariness this weekend to deliver a message to any of their critics. Yet to win a competitive fixture against the Reds at Anfield, this game might just prove the perfect opportunity for them to achieve just that.
Last Time Out
Manchester City 1-2 Liverpool [1-5 agg] (Champions League)
Jürgen Klopp again proved to have an edge over Pep Guardiola as Liverpool claimed a third win in as many games against the Cityzens. With Liverpool holding a strong advantage from the first leg, the match got off to the worst possible start when City scored within 2 minutes of kick-off.
Liverpool successfully weathered a barrage of attacks in the first half, however, their defence should take huge credit for only allowing City 2 more shots on target during the final 88 minutes of the game.
With halftime fast approaching the game could have taken a different turn only for Leroy Sané’s seemingly legitimate goal to be ruled out for offside. With Guardiola sent to the stands for protesting, Liverpool enjoyed a much more comfortable second half, especially after Mo Salah scored within 10 minutes of the restart. Roberto Firmino then won the tie and settled any nerves with a calm finish as Liverpool advanced to the semi-finals where they will now face Roma.
Bournemouth 2-2 Crystal Palace (Premier League)
Bournemouth twice came from behind before a late strike took a point from relegation-threatened Palace. A thrilling game played out on the South coast but the home side had Asmir Begovic to thank for keeping them from falling behind during the first half. They were eventually undone by a free-kick moments after half time but pulled back onto level terms when substitute Lys Mousset calmly picked his spot from the edge of the area.
Despite conceding a second goal when Wilfried Zaha scored with a quarter of an hour remaining, Bournemouth were solid in defence. Led ably by Nathan Aké, the Cherries withstood waves of Palace pressure throughout the afternoon. With Palace pushing for a third during the closing stages of the match, it was Josh King who found a breakthrough as the Cherries found a way through the Palace defence to break the away fans hearts.
Klopp is likely to ring the changes to his team but will definitely be without Joe Gomez (ankle) Joel Matip (thigh) Ragnar Klavan (muscular) Nathaniel Clyne (knock) Emre Can (back) and Adam Lallana (thigh) while Roberto Firmino is likely to be wrapped up in cotton wool after taking a knock to his neck.
Tyrone Mings (back) Adam Smith (knee) and Junior Stanislas (knee) have all failed to recover for this weekend’s trip to Anfield. Joshua King will be pushing hard for a return to the starting lineup following his late equaliser last weekend while Jordon Ibe could also start against his former club after recovering from the illness which made him miss the game against Palace.
Key Battle: Alberto Moreno (Liverpool) vs Jordon Ibe (Bournemouth)
If Liverpool are to take a positive result from this game they will need several players on the periphery of their squad to step up when needed. One such player who can play a major role for the Reds is Moreno, a much-maligned defender who proved during the early part of this season he can perform at this level. Having only picked up 3 minutes of match-time in the league since November, he will need to show he can quickly come up to speed as he did when starting against Porto in the Champions League last month.
It’s easy to forget that Ibe is still only 22 years of age given that he became Bournemouth’s most expensive signing 2 years ago. Having slowly established himself in the first team after a long struggle with his form, Ibe is now looking more like a player befitting the price tag which appeared over-inflated for long enough. With 2 goals and 6 assists in the league so far this season, he still needs to improve his end-game for the Cherries, however, many players find that easier to accomplish when faced with a former club.
Klopp is already known to be one of the biggest believers in squad rotation of all top managers, however, he faces some critical choices for this fixture. With 4 defenders and 2 midfielders missing from his first team, he will also need to battle against physical fatigue which his players will undoubtedly be disadvantaged with compared to the Cherries.
With a possibility of fielding some relatively unknown names this weekend, Klopp will need to strike a fine balance between resting key players and keeping a strong team. In facing a good Bournemouth side who like to attack with nous and a fluid passing game, Klopp is in danger of leaving his side exposed if he selects too much of an “experimental” team. Bournemouth’s ability to up their own game during the second half also provides a pointed threat which Klopp will need to be mindful of when placing his strategy out before his team on Saturday.
Patience is a virtue
In the cut-and-thrust nature of the Premier League, Eddie Howe has shown the rare quality of patience still has a place in the top-flight. The improvement to Jordon Ibe is a key example of this, however, it’s far from an isolated case.
Lewis Cook found his way into the first team tempered by a slow transition enforced by Howe but since Christmas has hardly missed a minute of league action. Lys Mousset is the latest talented youth player to undergo this process while Tyrone Mings is hardly being fast-tracked back from injury after a lengthy lay-off. While this approach may stop the younger players gaining credit for their talents beyond their own fans, it’s also setting them up for success in a much longer term which Lewis Cook for one is profiting from.
Prediction: Liverpool 1-3 Bournemouth
While Liverpool swept the Cherries aside 4-0 in their previous league meeting this season, this match is stacking up in favour of the away team who have been afforded a better preparation for the fixture. While Liverpool came away with an uninspiring draw under similar circumstances in last weekend’s Merseyside derby, Bournemouth are more inclined to press the advantage to spring a surprise result which they just might claim. For Liverpool, they might be happy to a provide vital experience to some younger players while ensuring they don’t pick up any further injuries which could derail the rest of the European campaign.