Our writer previews Sunday's opening EPL matchup between Bournemouth and Liverpool.
Eddie Howe’s side were far from disgraceful last weekend when they went down to an Arsenal side approaching their best form. They will welcome Jack Wilshere back into the fold this week and will hope to get a few other players back into starting contention.
Liverpool’s progression in the English League Cup came as a welcome tonic in a week that saw them lose their best player for the next five weeks. Phillipe Coutinho will clearly be a big miss for the Reds going into this congested fixture period, but they have a wealth of talent at their disposal and other players vying to return from injury.
English Premier League | Sunday 4 December | Dean Court | 15:30
To Win (90 Mins)
Bournemouth 34/10 | Draw 29/10 | Liverpool 15/20
Eddie Howe will bring Wilshere back into the side to attempt to nullify some the obvious gap in quality between the two sides. Historically, Bournemouth have lost all four of their matches against Liverpool. They should actually pose the Reds considerable threat though their pace on the counterattack.
Andrew Surman and Artur Boruc should both be available for selection after recovering from blows. The Former should come in for Adam Federici while Surman will also probably come in to lend Harry Arter a hand in curtailing the effectiveness of the Liverpool midfield.
I expect former Liverpool player Jordan Ibe to start on the bench, with Howe likely to opt for Junior Stanislas and Joshua King in wider areas. The battle between Jordan Henderson and Wilshere could be an excellent microcosm of the entire match. I really think that Bournemouth have the pace to trouble Liverpool this week, particularly as they are without their talisman.
Former Liverpool player Brad Smith has been preferred on the left ahead of Charlie Daniels of late, but I suspect that the talented Daniels may come back into contention to start this week- especially considering how vulnerable Liverpool can look from excellent deliveries down the flank.
To counterbalance the disappointment of Coutinho’s injury, there has been some more uplifting injury news elsewhere. It seems as if Firmino and Joel Matip will start this weekend, while Adam Lallana also looks set to return. Lalanna will likely join Firmino and Sadio Mane in the front three, meaning that Georginio Wijnaldum may join their midfield.
What this necessary change does do is perhaps make their midfield slightly less mobile. This could present an opportunity for an extremely athletic Bournemouth side to launch quicker, more incisive counterattacks. Wijnaldum is perhaps the one recent Liverpool acquisition that has yet to fully incur full idol worship as of this stage.
Where does this all leave Daniel Sturridge? He excluded himself from the squad in the last week following a foot concern, but it all seems to be playing into the grander Jurgen Klopp narrative that this guy isn’t in the right frame of mind to be a Liverpool player.
Sturridge is a man of exceptional ability, but a team that has pretensions of being champions can’t afford to carry a player for half of the season, regardless of how effervescent they may be. This, coupled with his more lethargic approach to tracking back, leads me to believe that Sturridge may not be a Liverpool player for much longer.
Verdict: Total Goals - Over 2.5
I really feel that Bournemouth have a chance here. But I just feel half a crazy person not backing the Liverpool victory. The Reds have shown the ability against Sunderland to grind out those ugly victories. But I do expect an open encounter that sees Bournemouth once again give a good account of themselves.