By Padraig O’Callaghan – @AGameOfTwoHalfz
Liverpool make the long trip down to the south coast to face an out of form, yet dangerous Bournemouth team.
The Cherries made a flying start to the season, keeping on par with teams like Arsenal and Tottenham Hotspur. Since then they have lost four of their last five which has seen them fall behind the two previously mentioned teams yet still find themselves ahead of Manchester United.
Despite making quite a lot of changes against Burnley, Liverpool still looked the part albeit against a championship standard team, but you must beat whoever your up against. Multiple players who haven’t played as much as they would have like this season had excellent games as the reds came from behind to win 3-1.
Bournemouth have lost four of their last five, scraping past Huddersfield in a 2-1 victory despite taking an early two-goal lead. Before that they lost four on the bounce, three of which were against Manchester United, Manchester City and Arsenal.
One thing in common in all of those games is that, Bournemouth had a go at all three teams and were unlucky not to get anything from Arsenal and United. Josh King, Callum Wilson, Ryan Fraser and David Brooks all have blistering pace and have all played a large part in why Bournemouth are sitting seventh in the table.
They are the top scorers outside the top five with the four previously mentioned players playing a large part in that feat. The quartet have provided a total 22 goals this season in all competitions. Ryan Fraser is leading the standing in assists with seven, while 21-year-old David Brooks has popped in with three.
Liverpool were magnificent in the second half against Burnley, we started moving the ball quicker and started creating better chances. Joe Hart made two superb saves to deny Naby Keita and Sturridge who tried their luck from range.
When Burnley went ahead against the run of play, we didn’t panic, kept to our game plane and got back into it minutes later through Milner. Salah and Firmino joined the fray minutes later as Liverpool scored two more without response to make it four wins on the bounce with only one conceded in four.
Eddie Howe should have a fully fit squad to choose from, with no injuries reported. Asmir Begovic should start in goal and has been a major factor as to why Bournemouth are performing so well.
Against Man City, Bournemouth utilised a five at the back formation for the first time to try and stifle the Champions’ attack. It worked to a certain extent before they ran out of energy and eventually succumbed to a 3-1 loss.
I would expect Eddie Howe to use the five at the back again, to try and frustrate us. Nathan Ake, Steve Cook and Tyrone Mings should all start at centre back with Charlie Daniels and Simon Francis supporting on the flanks.
Lewis Cook and Andrew Surman should start as a midfield duo. The two small, but dangerous wingers in David Brooks and Ryan Fraser will complete the midfield providing through balls from the wing to lone striker Callum Wilson.
On the back of making seven changes to the starting line-up in the win at Burnley during the week, Jurgen Klopp should return many of his first-team players to the first XI against a very dangerous Bournemouth team.
With Dejan Lovren missing the game against Burnley and Joe Gomez sidelined with that leg fracture, Joel Matip should remain in defence alongside Virgil van Dijk. Andy Robertson will return at left back.
Naby Keita was excellent in the game against the Clarets, making runs from deep and running at the defence. Saturday afternoon could be the first time we see Naby Keita and Fabinho starting together in midfield.
Gini Wijnaldum will likely play as the holding midfielder to keep things safe. Sadio Mané could be rested as a precaution with bigger games on the horizon so Divock Origi may join Mohamed Salah and Roberto Firmino up front.
One to watch: David Brooks
During the 17/18 season, David Brooks had his breakout season with Sheffield United. Whilst he didn’t score many the Welsh international earned a deserved move to Bournemouth, even though clubs like Liverpool and Tottenham were interested in acquiring his services – The Kopite recently learned that the Reds are still monitoring him.
In the Premier League Brooks has reached another level, being a stand out in the division and is one of the signings of the season. His start to the season hasn’t gone unnoticed, sources close to the Kopite have suggested that Jurgen Klopp has reignited his interest in the player and could look to sign him in the summer of 2019.
David Brooks, who is good friends with Harry Wilson, predominantly plays on the right wing but sometimes finds himself playing behind the striker. Despite his height, he is quick off the mark with or without the ball.
He often takes risks with his passing and crossing which has paid off this season. Bournemouth’s main attacking out let comes from their wingers, so stopping the winger will go a long way, before Klopp can work his magic come the final whistle with a trademark hug.
New-look midfield – In their most recent outings Fabinho and Naby Keita looked the part, being the sides best outfield player in both their respective games. Against Everton, Fabinho used his lengthy legs to regain possession and hustle opposition players, starting attacks multiple times after winning the ball high up the pitch.
Naby Keita played a much different role in Liverpool win over Burnley, offering the side with a player to similar style to Coutinho and the Ox. Every time the Guinean picked up the ball he looked up and tried to play forward, failing that he got the team out of dangerous positions with neat dribbling and crisp passing.
Bournemouth would be a solid game to play the duo, Eddie Howe usual doesn’t sit back against the bigger teams which could play into both players hands. Salah and Bobby looked very lively coming off the bench and the last 20 minutes in midweek were the best we played this season.
Big games against Napoli and United are coming up in the next week and Arsenal and Man City are both played after Christmas. If there is any time for our players to start playing well and (hopefully) finally click, now would be a great time.
Matip in defence – Joel Matip started against Burnley due to an unknown injury to Dejan Lovren. He made quite an unconvincing start to the match, being bullied off the ball far too easily and kept losing the ball. This unsettled Liverpool and affected their game for the opening half hour before the Cameroonian started to get a foot hold in the game.
With Joe Gomez with an ankle injury that will probably keep him out for a couple of weeks, both Lovren and Matip will be rotated in and out of the side. Dejan Lovren I’m fine with, he is a very good defender, who has stepped in multiple times this season and the defence has looked no worse.
Joel Matip might be a problem though. Yes, he is effective when playing teams who sit back at Anfield. Having the ability to pass the ball through the midfield is a great asset to have. Only thing is Newcastle are the only teams to visit Anfield during the festive period who will likely sit back.
Joel Matip will probably play against Rafa Benitez’s side, though one could argue with Rondon in the side it might be best to go with Lovren. Coming up against City, United, Arsenal and Napoli I expect to see more of Dejan Lovren than Joel Matip, if the Croatian is fit, of course.
Last five results
Premier League 14/04/2018 Liverpool 3-0 Bournemouth
Premier League 17/12/2017 Bournemouth 4-0 Liverpool
Premier League 05/04/2017 Liverpool 2-2 Bournemouth
Premier League 04/12/2016 Bournemouth 4-3 Liverpool
Premier League 17/04/2016 Bournemouth 1-2 Liverpool
I always enjoy when Liverpool play Bournemouth, It’s the only time we play a team outside the top six that a team doesn’t sit back and invite pressure. Instead, they have faith in their own ability to try and win while playing with style and purpose.
Over the past few seasons they have earned impressive wins against a couple of the top six sides. Because they are the only team outside the top six to have a go on a regular basis, it’s no surprise to see them steadily climb up the league table the past three years and are now arguably the most dangerous ‘smaller’ team.
Bournemouth have dangerous players in attack, have a very good defender in Nathan Ake and Begovic can be a very good goal keeper on his day. Liverpool and Manchester City are on another level to the rest of the league and the table is finally showing that, nowadays Liverpool don’t look like losing and yet again I don’t see us losing.
With a new look midfield hopefully making their debut as a duo. The Liverpool we all want to see may finally start coming to fruition.
Our attack and midfield should be too much for Eddie Howe’s team, I expect it to be a nervy opening half hour before our midfield get used to each other movements. I think Liverpool will win 2-0 with both Firmino and Keita finding the back of the net.
Bournemouth 0-2 Liverpool (Firmino, Keita)