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Last four head-to-head:
2-0 Liverpool (a; FA Cup) 01.25.14
4-1 Liverpool (h; FA Cup) 01.30.68
0-0 (a; FA Cup) 01.27.68
4-1 Liverpool (h; FA Cup) 01.12.27
Last three matches:
Liverpool: 0-3 United (a); 1-1 Basel (h); 0-0 Sunderland (h)
Bournemouth: 5-3 Cardiff (h); 2-1 Wolves (a); 2-2 Millwall (h)
Liverpool: 2-1 Swansea (h); 2-2 Boro [14-13 pens] (h)
Bournemouth: 2-1 West Brom (h); 3-0 Cardiff (a); 3-0 Northampton (h); 2-0 Exeter (a)
Liverpool: Gerrard 5; Henderson, Sterling 3; Balotelli, Lallana, Lambert 2; Coutinho, Can, Johnson, Lovren, Moreno, Rossiter, Sturridge, Suso 1
Bournemouth: Wilson 12; Pitman, Pugh 6; Kermorgant 5; Gosling, Ritchie 4; Arter, Cook 3; Rantie, Surman 2; Daniels, Francis, Fraser O'Kane, Stanislas 1
Referee: Mark Clattenburg
Guess at a line-up:
Manquillo Toure Sakho Moreno
Markovic Henderson Can Lallana
Domestic cup XIs are difficult to predict at the best of times, and this most certainly is not the best of times, so I'm guessing what I'd prefer to see instead.
Rest Sterling, rest Gerrard.
If he's fit enough, give Balotelli another chance, ideally with a strike partner. And since we haven't yet found where Rodgers stashed Fabio Borini, that strike partner probably has to be Lambert.
Start Sakho. Start both Manquillo and Moreno, especially since the former will have to play a lot more in the near future due to Johnson's injury suffered at Manchester United.
After two decent cameos off the bench, start Markovic again. Emre Can was arguably Liverpool's best player against Chelsea, but has barely been seen since, so he should also be in line for an appearance. Lallana has been one of Liverpool's few bright spots in attack and came off at halftime on Sunday, so you'd have to think he'll be included as well.
Brad Jones is starting again because Simon Mignolet's been a bad, bad little boy, or something.
I realize that Liverpool haven't played an orthodox 4-4-2 at all this season, but it seems necessary if Sterling and Gerrard are rested, Liverpool play with two strikers, and Markovic, Lallana, and Can all start. Liverpool don't really have the personnel for the diamond with those two absent unless you're using Markovic at the tip of the diamond rather than on the flank, with Lucas at the base, two from Henderson-Can-Lallana as the shuttlers and Markovic at the apex. Three at the back, as against United, remains a possibility, but I suspect that formation was more to counter United's set-up rather than Liverpool's plan going forward.
But chances are we see a much "stronger" XI than the one guessed above. Something like Jones; Manquillo, Skrtel, Lovren, Enrique; Lucas; Gerrard, Henderson; Coutinho, Lambert, Sterling. To the detriment of young players and summer signings who'd normally get chances in this competition.
The majority of the Bournemouth side that Liverpool faced in the FA Cup last year remains at the club, supplemented by a few new faces. Top scorer Callum Wilson, with 12 goals so far this season, joined from Coventry; Artur Boruc, formerly of Southampton and Celtic, is now the starting keeper; ex-Evertonian Dan Gosling frequently features in midfield, often as a substitute. But tomorrow's XI will look a lot like the one which faced Liverpool 11 months ago.
Bournemouth will almost certainly name a full-strength XI – it's the first time the club has made it this far in the competition – something like Boruc; Francis, Elphick, Cook, Daniels; Arter, Surman; Ritchie, Pitman, Pugh; Wilson. Nine of those 11 played in last season's meeting. Meanwhile, four of Liverpool's starting XI from last season aren't even with the club anymore, while Sturridge also remains injured, and if Liverpool name the above guessed XI, only Henderson, Toure, and Jones will be holdovers from the previous meeting.
But last season, Bournemouth were 16th in the Championship, ultimately ending the season strongly and finishing 10th. Liverpool won 2-0 fairly easily, rarely threatened, thanks to goals from Moses and Sturridge. This season, Bournemouth lead the division, have scored six more goals than the next closest Championship side (averaging 2.1 per match), and haven't lost since September 30, winning nine and drawing three during that span.
Even if Liverpool were at full strength and were actually playing decent football, this would be a challenge. Liverpool aren't at full strength, Liverpool shouldn't name a full-strength XI, and Liverpool aren't playing decent football. So be it.
Advancing in this competition would be nice. As in 2011-12, cup progression can serve as a welcome distraction for league failings. But, as 2011-12 demonstrated, cup progression doesn't necessarily correct those failings. Nor can it save an under-fire manager's job.
What's more important is seeing what you have and setting yourself up for better in the future. Liverpool still need to see what they have with Balotelli, Liverpool need to see what they have with Sakho now that he's fit again. Markovic, Can, Manquillo, and Moreno are the future, and Sakho should be included in that group as well.
We're incredibly close to already waving goodbye to this season, at least a top 4 league position. Liverpool's best hope for Champions League qualification is probably winning the Europa League, something they have not looked capable of doing. The future is now.