Sunday 4th December 13.30 GMT
Bournemouth can consider themselves unlucky to have been on the wrong end of a 3-1 score line last weekend against Arsenal, a tally that flattered the Gunners. Bournemouth were bright, created chances and had two good shouts for a penalty when there was still some meat on the bone of the game. Of course, hard luck stories count for nothing but equally, score lines don’t tell all and it’s worth noting how well they played against one of the big boys.
Best of the rest?
This week, they’ll have an extra string to their bow when Jack Wilshere becomes eligible to play again. Playing at home is another point in their favour. Eddie Howe will continue to imbue his team with confidence, reinforcing their strengths and minimizing their weaknesses. In addition to the returning Wilshere, Harry Arter has mightily impressed this season. Be it from the base of midfield or closer to the opposition’s goal, he is directing play with increasing assertiveness and much of Bournemouth’s good play runs through him.
Strength as weakness
Ironically, the very confidence and progressive play that marks Bournemouth out from the pack might well be their downfall in this tie. It would be a marked shift in their style and mentality if they were to adopt a defensive strategy and this column can’t imagine them doing so. That being the case, they will offer Liverpool that thing which they crave the most – space.
The last two league games have seen Liverpool come up against two very defensive set-ups (W1 D1) so if offered the opportunity to attack space, they will do so with relish. There are a couple of issues running against them, however, the main one being the loss through injury of Philipe Coutinho. The Brazilian whizz came a cropper last weekend and is set to be out until after Christmas. Their ability to deal with his loss will say much about the viability of Liverpool’s league challenge.
Softening the blow
It’s just as well then that news of Adam Lallana’s return to the starting line-up appear to be true. The diminutive playmaker is a vital cog in Klopp’s machine, his ability to receive and retain possession in tight spaces before releasing a team mate essential to the successful implantation of their attacking policy. He will need to be close to his best as without the aforementioned Countinho, there is a lot of responsibility on his shoulders.
Chance to impress
In addition, Robert Firmino is returning after taking a knock so may not be quite match fit and Daniel Sturridge is injured yet again. That means Divock Origi will likely start and the young Belgian will be eager to make the most of a rare chance to impress from the off. Happily for him (but not so much for Liverpool), Coutinho’s injury means that this rare start will likely lead to an extended run in the team.
By rights, this should be an entertaining match whichever way it works out. Both teams will look to play front foot football thus leaving a lot of space on the pitch for the good and brave to exploit. Although Liverpool are denuded in some key areas, this column thinks they should do just about enough to win. Having said that, a score draw isn’t altogether unlikely either but we’re duty-bound to pick one so a Liverpool win it is. Best price there is 39/50 and comes by way of MarathonBet.