Verdict: Mohamed Salah to score
Best odds: 13/10
Bournemouth and Liverpool are set to break open the list of Premier League matches this weekend when they meet at the Vitality Stadium on Saturday, lunch time. It’ll be game 26 for either side as they fight to achieve two very different goals for the season. The visitors will travel to the south coast of England with the intention of doing anything similar to the result of the reverse fixture earlier this season, which they won 9-0, while the home side see this moment as an opportunity to banish the painful memories from the Anfield trip.
Bournemouth face a difficult task of trying to avoid relegation to the Championship at the end of the season. They’ve recorded some surprisingly good results recently, but with the rest of those whose survival is in jeopardy also picking up points here and there this season, the Cherries find themselves sitting at the bottom of the table with just 21 points, behind Southampton on goal-difference, Everton and Leeds by a point, two behind West Ham, and three behind Leicester City.
The race for safety between these six will be fierce, though it should be said that Nottingham Forest (26), Wolverhampton Wanderers and Crystal Palace (27 apiece) aren’t quite out of the woods either. It should also be said that Wolves and Everton have played a game more than the rest of the pack.
Being out of both cup competitions since early January, Bournemouth only compete in the league at the moment. Their last-six run consists of a 1-1 draw at home against Nottingham Forest, a 1-0 defeat away to Brighton and Hove Albion, a hard-earned 1-1 draw at home against Newcastle, an important 0-1 win away to Wolves, and expected defeats to the top two – a 1-4 loss at home against defending champions Manchester City and a 3-2 loss away to league leaders Arsenal.
That last match was a particularly painful one for Gary O’Neil’s men, who were 0-2 up by the hour-mark through goals from Philip Billing and Marcos Senesi. It was Thomas Partey who pulled one back for the Gunners in the 62nd minute and Ben White who equalized in the 70th, before Reiss Nelson established himself in the Arsenal folklore with a 97th-minute winner.
O’Neil won’t be able to count on wingers Junior Stanislas (unspecified problem) and David Brooks (thigh), as well as left-back Matias Vina (knee). The coach could have a number of players back from injury for this clash – centre-backs Lloyd Kelly (calf) and Ilya Zabarnyi (ankle), midfielders Marcus Tavernier (hamstring), Jefferson Lerma and Hamed Traore (both muscle) – each of them awaits his own individual assessment ahead of the match.
Whatever proves the case with those players, there won’t be much cause for O’Neil to change things after the near miss against Arsenal. With Neto in goal, Jack Stephens, Chris Mepham and Jordan Zemura are likely to form a back line of five together with Marcos Senesi and Adam Smith on the flanks. Billing and Joe Rothwell should pair up in the middle of the park with Dango Outtara and Antoine Semenyo in wider midfield roles. Dominic Solanke should start upfront, tasked with finding the back of the net against his former club.
Things have definitely picked up for Liverpool over the last few weeks, and the humiliation suffered at Anfield in the first leg of their Champions League clash with Real Madrid now seems like a bad dream dispelled by the first light of the early morning. Still, there is a long way to go, a lot to be done before they qualify for that competition again, and not many see them likely to overturn the three-goal deficit in the Spanish capital next week.
In the meantime, the Merseysiders have been steadily climbing up the Premier League ladder after a long, wearying part of the season which lasted practically from its start until quite recently. They even popped their heads in the lower half of the table at one point, but now they’re in fifth place with 42 points, just three behind Tottenham Hotspur on whom they have a game in hand. A win at Bournemouth would even take them into the top four, at least for a day, until Spurs play Nottingham Forest on Sunday. They should, on the other hand, be wary of Newcastle who are only a point behind and have a game in hand on Jurgen Klopp’s team.
The last six matches Liverpool have played were a 2-0 home win over city rivals Everton, a 0-2 win away to Newcastle, a 2-5 loss at home to Real Madrid, a goalless draw away to Crystal Palace, a 2-0 home win over Wolves, and a sublime 7-0 annihilation of arch-rivals Manchester United at home.
Cody Gakpo, Darwin Nunez and Mohamed Salah struck twice each against United, with Salah thus becoming the club’s best ever Premier League goalscorer. The final nail in United’s coffin was the work of Roberto Firmino, who recently caused great sadness among the Kop faithful by declaring his intention not to sign a new contract and to leave the club at the end of the season as a free agent. The Brazilian craves a new challenge, having won everything there was to win over eight years on Merseyside.
Midfielder Arthur Melo (thigh) and defender Calvin Ramsay (knee) will be absent a long time yet. Midfielder Thiago Alcantara (groin) and winger Luis Diaz (knee) will need a few days more before being back too. Defender Joe Gomez and midfielder Naby Keita are yet to be tested for fitness and could be in contention.
Alisson Becker will stand between the posts, with the duo of Virgil van Dijk and Ibrahima Konate flanked by Trent Alexander-Arnold on the right and Andy Robertson on the left. Klopp could make a few changes in midfield as well as in attack, with the Real Madrid rematch next week in mind. Stefan Bajcetic could come in as the ‘6’, and with James Milner and Curtis Jones also hoping for a start, the scale of the changes probably hasn’t been decided at this point. Upfront, it could be time for Diogo Jota and Firmino to ease the load on Darwin Nunez and Cody Gakpo and start together with Mohamed Salah.
With all due respect to Bournemouth, it would take a great miracle for them to avoid another heavy defeat against the resurgent Liverpool on Saturday.
Now the Merseysiders’ top Premier League scorer, Salah will not want to stop there.
Verdict: Mohamed Salah to score
Best odds: 13/10
- Soccer News Like
- Be the first of your friends!