03 December 2016

Liverpool at Bournemouth 12.04.16

8:30am ET, live in the US on NBC Sports

Last four head-to-head:
2-1 Liverpool (a) 04.17.16
1-0 Liverpool (h; League Cup) 10.28.15
1-0 Liverpool (h) 08.17.15
3-1 Liverpool (a; League Cup) 12.17.14

Last three matches:
Liverpool: 2-0 Leeds (h); 2-0 Sunderland (h); 0-0 Southampton (a)
Bournemouth: 1-3 Arsenal (a); 1-0 Stoke (a); 1-2 Sunderland (h)

Goalscorers (league):
Liverpool: Mané 6; Coutinho, Firmino, Milner 5; Lallana 3; Can, Lovren 2; Henderson, Matip, Origi, WIjnaldum 1
Bournemouth: Wilson 4; Stanislas 3; Gosling, King 2; Ake, S Cook, Daniels, A Smith 1

Referee: Bobby Madley

Guess at a line-up:
Clyne Matip Lovren Milner
Wijnaldum Henderson Can
Mané Origi Firmino

Do Liverpool risk either or both of the two crucial players who've been injured but returned to training this week?

Whether Firmino or Lallana make the XI is even more important given Coutinho's lengthy absence. But I'm not sure if that makes Liverpool more or less likely to play it safe, as they've become that much more crucial over the next couple of months, not just for tomorrow's match.

So, the line-up guess is completely predicated on their inclusion. Maybe both play and either Firmino starts on the left with Origi central or Origi drops to the bench with Wijnaldum wide left, as he was against Leeds. We're definitely going to see Wijnaldum in Coutinho's position at times over the next six weeks. If neither play, it's a bit trickier: maybe Milner shifts into midfield with Moreno at left-back, maybe Ejaria or Woodburn or even Moreno is used in attack, maybe Stewart comes into midfield. The cupboard's beginning to look a bit threadbare, as Daniel Sturridge remains absent with a lingering calf problem.

My best guess is Firmino, who missed less time with a less serious injury, plays but Lallana's protected. But, as usual, it's no more than a guess, and both starting is probably just as likely.

Regardless of who plays, Bournemouth presents a more than viable threat, even if they sit 12th with half as many points as Liverpool, even if they've won just once in their last five matches.

Bournemouth have been a bit of everything so far this season. They've lost three of their last four, the lone win a narrow 1-0 over Stoke. They're one of just two sides to score six in a Premier League match this season, along with Liverpool. They conceded three against United and Arsenal and four against Manchester City but also held both Everton and Tottenham scoreless. The last loss, at Arsenal, was a lot closer than the scoreline suggests, Bournemouth missing multiple chances at both 1-1 and 2-1 before Alexis secured the victory in injury time.

Most dangerous is Bournemouth's ability on counter-attack. They've multiple attackers who can cause Liverpool problems, from top scorer Callum Wilson to Stanislas, King, Afobe, Gradel, and some dude named Jordon Ibe on the flanks to even Jack Wilshere, who's increasingly not too far off from actually looking like Jack Wilshere.

For better or for worse, Bournemouth probably won't play like Southampton or Sunderland. Bournemouth's games, even the low-scoring ones, have been much more open. They'll challenge Liverpool. Liverpool will probably have a bit more defending to do than in other recent games, and I'm curious (read: nervous, terrified, not excited) to see how they cope. And that challenge might but won't necessarily make it easier for Liverpool to find space to play in attack.

Surman and Lewis Cook are the only Bournemouth players assuredly out, but Stanislas, Daniels, and Boruc are all slight doubts. My best guess at an XI is Federici; Francis, Cook, Ake, B Smith; Gosling, Arter; King, Wilshere, Stanislas; Wilson. Brad Smith, despite his Liverpool past, is most likely to drop out if Charlie Francis is anywhere near fit, his start against Arsenal his only appearance so far this season. Afobe, Ibe, Gradel, and Adam Smith – usually a right-back but started as a right-winger against Arsenal – are other options in attack.

Each of Liverpool's matches against Bournemouth last season were tight games. Tight games which Liverpool held on to win, but tight games none the less: 1-0 at home under Rodgers, 1-0 in the league cup in one of Klopp's early matches, and 2-1 at Bournemouth with the much-changed Liverpool side we saw with the focus on the Europa League.

And that could and probably should be the story of tomorrow's match. Bournemouth will make Liverpool work for it. Eddie Howe's an excellent manager and they've got some talented players. But if Liverpool do what Liverpool should – as they've usually done this season, no matter the strength of the XI – Liverpool's class should win out.


georger said...

Huh no shit, so that's what happened to Dan Gosling.

nate said...

speaking of "oh so that's what happened to..." holy shit you're alive