Unlucky at Arsenal
On Sunday the match ended 3-1 to Arsenal, but Bournemouth pushed the Gunners all the way. Howe’s side also created clear openings, most memorably for Lys Mousset, which the young French striker spurned.
What’s encouraging about the Cherries is the way they can keep the ball, with technical players like Arter and Wilshere in midfield. But they also have lots of pacey options for counter-attacks led by the lively Callum Wilson.
Bet on Wilshere to Shine
You could say that Wilshere’s enforced absence against Arsenal was a blessing for the player. It gave him a useful rest in his bid to get back to full fitness.
And he’ll be raring to go against the Reds. He’s starting to find his touch and that early burst of pace, and this season he’s hit the woodwork an incredible four times.
On the ball he’s also a player that will be able to cope with Liverpool’s pressing game, making the right decisions under pressure.
Safe Bets on the Ball
In fact, this is a trait that runs throughout this Bournemouth team. Howe has coached his players to be calm in possession, which will be valuable against Liverpool who are used to starving other sides of the ball.
Not many teams have been able to test a Reds backline that still has James Milner at left-back and the unconvincing Dejan Lovren propping it up. With the right approach it should be possible to open Liverpool up.
Nathan Aké was the star against Arsenal, building on a great showing in the win at Stoke the week before. The Dutchman isn’t especially tall for a centre-half, but he reads the game well for a 21-year-old and is quick enough to cope with Liverpool’s pace.
To his left it looks like Charlie Daniels will be back for Liverpool, and his delivery from the touchline is an underrated element in Bournemouth’s attack.
Triple Blow for Reds
The worst news of the weekend for Liverpool was that Coutinho will be out until the end of January. This of course means that the Reds won’t be able to call on the Brazilian star during that hectic Christmas period when games come thick and fast.
But in the short-term the picture looks even worse, now that Sadio Mané, Firmino and Sturridge are all carrying knocks. Add those to the pivotal Adam Lallana and Liverpool are weakened, even if some make it back for the Cherries match.
Loss of Fluency
Whatever happens, Liverpool are sure to be less effective having to cope without Coutinho, their best player this season. And if any of the other injury concerns are out they’ll be less cohesive, and gaps could open up for Bournemouth to capitalise on.
In their last match on the south coast they were held by a resilient Southampton, even when they had all their stars on the pitch, and Bournemouth can easily go one better.
The consolation is that Divock Origi may finally get a first start of the season. The young Belgian has come off the bench in nearly every game, and made the difference against Sunderland by scoring the opener. He’ll surely get a run-out in the cup against Leeds so should be up to speed on the weekend.
The difficulty for Liverpool now though will be linking with whoever plays up front, without possibly two key creators in Lallana and Coutinho.
Bournemouth vs Liverpool Prediction
We know that Bournemouth are big outsiders for this match. But having watched Howe’s team these last few weeks, and seen how many clear-cut chances they create every game, it’s only a matter of time before they start converting.
With Wilshere coming back the Cherries are stronger than in their trip to Arsenal, where they should have got a result. Liverpool have beaten Bournemouth in every one of their previous meetings, but the circumstances are in the home team’s favour this time.
So our tip is a close 2-1 win for Howe’s men for the shock of the weekend.