Gary O’Neil believes Bournemouth need one final push to secure their Premier League status, with the Cherries closing in on safety ahead of Sunday’s meeting with struggling Leeds United.
Bournemouth clinched their third successive away victory on Thursday, beating Southampton 1-0 to leave Saints staring at relegation and take themselves seven points clear of the bottom three.
With the most intense relegation battle in recent memory set to go to the wire, O’Neil is keen to ensure Bournemouth do not rest on their laurels.
“It’s still about avoiding the bottom three,” O’Neil said. “I still believe 36 points could be relegated.
“I think maybe the world felt we were fine when we left the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium and then you get a performance against West Ham where we let ourselves down, so that’s a real good lesson for the boys.
“You think everything is rosy and then you get a kick up the backside.
“Hopefully that prepares us well for what will be a tough ask against Leeds, to go off the back of a huge effort last night, with two days’ fewer recovery against a very intense team.”
While Bournemouth are closing in on safety, Leeds are growing increasingly desperate amid an alarming drop-off.
Javi Gracia’s side followed up 5-1 and 6-1 defeats to Crystal Palace and Liverpool by drawing a six-pointer against Leicester City on Tuesday, Patrick Bamford missing a glaring chance for a late winner.
With Leeds one point clear of danger and facing several challenging fixtures, Gracia has attracted fierce criticism from areas of the club’s fanbase.
Asked if he was worried about his own future on Friday, Gracia said: “I’m just concerned about the situation of the team.
“When I arrived, we were in a worse position.
“We wanted to get more points but we are focused on trying our best in the five games left, and that starts with Bournemouth.”
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Bournemouth – Dominic Solanke
Having scored 17 goals in 23 home league games for Bournemouth in the Championship last season, Solanke has netted just once in 14 appearances at the Vitality Stadium this campaign.
However, the former Liverpool and Chelsea striker has 12 goal involvements overall in the Premier League this term (five goals, seven assists) – at least three more than any of his team-mates (Marcus Tavernier has nine).
Leeds United – Jack Harrison
As well as leading the way for chances created (50) and assists (seven) for Leeds in the Premier League this season, Harrison has made more ball carries (309) and carried the ball a greater distance (3,479 metres) than any other player for the Whites in the competition this term.
Meanwhile, only Rodrigo (11) and Luis Sinisterra (five) have bettered Harrison’s tally of four league goals for Leeds this campaign. With Gracia’s men on the slide, they need the winger to provide some attacking inspiration.
MATCH PREDICTION – DRAW
Leeds have won 10 of their 13 previous league games against Bournemouth (D2 L1), including nine of the last 10. That represents their best win rate against any opponent they have faced at least 10 times in their league history (77 per cent).
However, only Nottingham Forest (six) have won fewer away points than Leeds’ nine in the Premier League this season, and the visitors have only kept one clean sheet in their last 18 road trips.
While Bournemouth’s need for points is less pressing than that of Leeds following their midweek victory, the Cherries have taken 15 points from their last eight league games (W5 L3), so they will be hopeful of picking up a result to inch them closer to safety.
OPTA WIN PROBABILITY
Bournemouth – 34.7 per cent
Leeds United – 37.1 per cent
Draw – 28.2 per cent
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