The first meeting with Bournemouth in the Premier League this season was a match Liverpool would like to forget. Not only did the game in end in defeat for the Reds but it was the way the match developed which really hurt.
With Liverpool 3-1 up in the game at the Vitality Stadium, another 3 points appeared to be in the bag and perhaps the players thought the same way. Bournemouth completed what has been hailed as one of the comebacks of the season, overturning the 2-goal deficit with 15 minutes left on the clock and winning the match 4-3, thanks to a 93rd-minute winner.
It was certainly an afternoon to forget for Jurgen Klopp and his players but will serve as a stark reminder before the reverse fixture on Wednesday night, that you can take nothing for granted in the Premier League. This is especially true in Liverpool’s case, as the Reds have struggled most this season when playing against teams from the bottom half of the Premier League table.
The good news is The Reds form has picked up a lot since the poor performance at Leicester City. Since the defeat at the home of the champions, Liverpool have picked up 10 points from a possible 12, with victories over Arsenal, Burnley and Everton and a good point away to Manchester City. Considering these results and the fixtures Liverpool have left, it would a massive disappointment if the club failed to qualify for the Champions League next season.
A victory in this match against Bournemouth would be hugely significant. With the momentum building, anything but a victory would be very disappointing and the phycological impact of dropping points against another team from the bottom half of the table would be tough to shake off.
The team news ahead of the match is not particularly encouraging, with Sadio Mane out of this match and possibly the remainder of the season. The Senegalese forward joins Adam Lallana and Jordan Henderson on the side-lines. The good news is Emre Can and Joel Matip should be fit and Daniel Sturridge is available for selection, which will boost the numbers if nothing more.
Divock Origi is expected to come into the team to replace Mane in attack and having netted the third goal against Everton on the weekend, it will be interesting to see his contribution from the start of the match. Origi has recently spoken about his frustration of having to play from the substitutes bench this season and now he has the perfect opportunity to show everyone what he can do. If the Belgian striker can lead the line for Liverpool and help the team close out the season with a Champions League place, he will do his future at the club a great deal of good.
The visitors do not have any new injuries to worry about but Eddie Howe will be without Callum Wilson, Andrew Surman and Adam Federici. Tyrone Mings is suspended following the incident with Zlatan Ibrahimovic earlier in the season.
Having gone through a tough run of seven games without a win in the Premier League since the turn of the year, Bournemouth’s form has started to pick up of late. The 0-0 at Southampton on the weekend means it is now four matches unbeaten for Bournemouth, with wins over Swansea and West Ham plus a good 1-1 at Manchester United.
However, a look at the home and away results of both teams this season, shows Liverpool have the advantage. Bournemouth have won away from just twice this season in the Premier League whereas Liverpool have lost only one league game at Anfield all season. This suggests a victory is out of reach for Bournemouth in this game but having lost at home to Swansea, now is not the time to start using statistics and taking things for granted as a result.
Bournemouth are not out of the danger zone yet and will come to defend, happy to take a point. This will lead to the same old questions about Liverpool’s ability to break down teams in the bottom half of the table. With key attacking players missing, this question may be tougher to answer than first thought.
Fortunately for the Reds, Philippe Coutinho has found his form and he will be key in this match. With the absence of Mane and Lallana, the Brazilian forward will have the bulk of the creative duty thrust upon him. One moment of Coutinho magic may be what is needed to win this game.
This match may not live long in the memory in terms of exciting football but could see Liverpool edge closer to Champions League football next season.