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Bournemouth will stay focused during emotional clash with Luton – Andoni Iraola

SoccerNews in General Soccer News 12 Mar 2024

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Bournemouth manager Andoni Iraola is confident his players will stay focused during what is expected to be an emotional occasion when they face Luton at the Vitality Stadium again.

Wednesday night’s Premier League game is the rearranged fixture from December 16, which was abandoned when Hatters captain Tom Lockyer collapsed on the pitch after suffering a cardiac arrest during the second half.

Lockyer – who was fitted with an implantable cardioverter defibrillator after he was hospitalised for five days – is set to travel with the Luton squad to the Vitality Stadium.

The 29-year-old Welshman – who had also suffered a collapse during the 2023 Championship play-off final at Wembley – is set to be meeting some of the people whose swift actions that afternoon helped save his life.

Iraola is happy to see Lockyer making a recovery and feels when the game kicks off, everyone will have their mind on producing the required performance.

“I have been a player and when the referee whistles at the start of the game, you focus because you have difficult things to do,” Iraola told a press conference.

“You think about the football stuff and the opponent you have, also what you can do whenever you receive the next ball.

“I think the players will be focussed on the football side because they are used to it.”

Iraola has no doubts Lockyer will receive a warm welcome at the Vitality Stadium.

“Since the first seconds (after) it happened, everyone was very clear that the most important thing that mattered was for him to recover,” the Cherries boss said.

“The most important thing is he is much better. He has recovered well and I am happy to know that he is doing well.

“It will be amazing if he comes and we can see him. I am happy to know he is doing well.”

Bournemouth fought back from two goals down to draw 2-2 against Sheffield United on Saturday with a stoppage-time equaliser from Enes Unal.

Iraola is expecting just as stern a test against the Hatters, who could lift themselves out of the relegation zone if they win on Wednesday night.

“Luton and almost all of the teams, we are in a battle. All of the teams need the points and it’s important,” he said.

“The later you play, the more important the points are because you don’t have so many chances after.

“They are a team that have changed a little bit since the last time we played them here, they are much more aggressive in the press and are keeping more possession.

“They are playing more from the back, they have very good midfielders and then they have a lot of pace.

“We have to prepare for a very different game than the one we played the other day against Sheffield United.”

Dominic Solanke had not trained fully in the run-up to the Sheffield United game as he managed a knee issue, but completed 90 minutes so should feature again.

“He has not been affected by the injury, performance wise,” said Iraola, who remains without defender Marcos Senesi because of a thigh problem.

“He finished better in the game than the previous one against Burnley.”

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