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    Bournemouth vs Liverpool Match Preview

    Liverpool return to the bread and butter of Premier League football on Sunday just 63 hours after they completed one of the most memorable comebacks in the history of European competition. Awaiting the Europa League semi-finalists will be Eddie Howe's Bournemouth, who are currently enjoying the greatest season in the club's history and can even move within four points of the visitors with a win.

    Liverpool Overview

    It remains to be seen whether Liverpool have come back down to earth after Thursday night's emotional roller coaster against Borussia Dortmund, or whether it will prove to be a case of after the Lord Mayor's Show. After starting the evening ahead on away goals, Jurgen Klopp's team found themselves in the daunting position of needing to score three unanswered goals in the final 35 minutes in order to progress. Philippe Coutinho, Mamadou Sakho and a stoppage-time winner from Dejan Lovren made it a momentous night for Liverpool and brought back memories of the club's epic comeback in the 2005 Champions League final against AC Milan in Istanbul.

    Although a first ever league visit to the Vitality Stadium may not be remembered as favourably as the raucous atmosphere that over 43,000 fans generated at Anfield on Thursday, the result could prove just as important in the cold light of day. The Reds trail Manchester United (fifth), West Ham (sixth) and Southampton (seventh) in the race for the Europa League and only by winning this season's competition would Liverpool's current position of eighth guarantee a return ticket to Europe for 2016-17. That would prove a tough task as the club's semi-finals opponents are Villareal, the fourth-place team in La Liga, before either Sevilla, winners of the tournament in four of the past 10 seasons, or 2009 winners Shakhtar Donetsk would await Klopp's team in the final.

    The fact that Liverpool play every midweek and weekend between now and the end of the season means that Klopp is likely to rotate his squad, giving a chance to some of the club's promising youngsters and fringe players. Sunday's line-up could be similar to the one that impressed a week ago in the 4-1 demolition of Stoke, with Kevin Stewart and Sheyi Ojo featuring in midfield and Daniel Sturridge leading the line in place of Divock Origi. Keeping the squad fresh could be vital in ensuring a strong end to the season and it would also ensure that Klopp could revert to his strongest starting XI for Wednesday's Merseyside derby against Everton.

    Bournemouth Overview

    If Liverpool are to move level with seventh-place Southampton on 51 points, they will have to overcome the challenge of Eddie Howe's impressive Bournemouth side who have taken to the Premier League like a duck to water. The Cherries have played some attractive football this season and although the club have conceded more goals than all the teams outside the bottom four, Howe's free-scoring side have scored as many goals as Manchester United in fifth place. Key to Bournemouth's success has been maintaining the team that was so impressive on its way to securing the Championship title last season and addling a sprinkling of stardust in attacking areas of the pitch.

    Howe's open and attacking style has produced mixed results against the Premier League superpowers this season, with Manchester City and Tottenham Hotspur exposing the club's weaknesses in securing 9-1 and 8-1 aggregate wins respectively. Bournemouth did, however, record a famous 1-0 win against defending Champions Chelsea at Stamford Bridge, while also beating both Manchester United and West Ham in addition to securing two draws against league-leaders Leicester. The Cherries were also unfortunate when they lost 1-0 in the league at Anfield back in August, when Tommy Elphick had a header harshly disallowed and Christian Benteke's winning goal was later ruled by the Premier League to have been offside.

    Bournemouth recognised that it was in attacking areas in which they needed to spend money and the signings of Joshua King, Max Gradel, Glenn Murray, Lewis Grabban and Benik Afobe have given The Cherries the firepower to compete at the highest level. One of the club's strengths this season has been the fact that they have not relied on the contribution of any one individual and this is illustrated by the fact that their highest goalscorers are both Callum Wilson and Joshua King with five goals apiece. They have also had to cope with a succession of long-term injuries, with Tyrone Mings missing since August with a knee problem and both Max Gradel and Callum Wilson only recently returning from long-term knee injuries.

    Bournemouth Key Players

    Joshua King, who has been Bournemouth's top-scorer this season with five league goals and six in all competitions, has adapted well to life in the Premier League after three seasons in the Championship with Blackburn. The 24-year-old is not a prolific goalscorer, illustrated by the fact that he scored only eight goals for his previous club, but he does lead the line well and never gives opponents a moment's rest by making intelligent runs. The six foot one inch striker does not only play well as a target man but he has the pace and skill to play as a winger, and he is equally adept at using both feet.

    Matt Ritchie has impressed in his first full-season of Premier League football although, like King, the Scotland international is not a great goalscorer but has many other facets to his game. The former Portsmouth and Swindon winger plays on the right but has the skill and ability to cut inside with his left-foot, which has proved a deadly weapon when shooting from distance in his three-and-a-half years at the club. The 26-year-old, who has also scored two goals for Scotland this season in addition to the three he has scored for The Cherries, is one of the hardest-working players in the Premier League. It was revealed in January that only Andrew Surman and Gareth Barry had run further in the top flight than the 152 miles that Ritchie had covered up until that point of the season.

    Liverpool Key Players

    Simon Mignolet has been a revelation for Liverpool over the past few weeks after a difficult start to the season in which he kept only two clean sheets in 17 matches for club and country between the end of August and late November. The decision to hand him a long-term contract until 2021 was met with scepticism by many within the world of football but he has responded to his critics with a series of inspirational performances in recent weeks. The Belgian has kept 12 clean sheets since the end of November and his most impressive display was in the League Cup final against Manchester City, where he single-handedly kept The Reds in the match with a succession of saves before they lost on penalties.

    Daniel Sturridge is likely to lead the Liverpool attack today and his eight goals from 13 starts and five substitute appearances illustrate just how important a player he is for Liverpool and how much they missed him when he was injured. The 26-year-old also has a point to prove after he was left out of the starting line-up in both the club's Europa League matches against Borussia Dortmund despite impressing in last weekend's 4-1 victory over Stoke. Sturridge also knows that time is running out in order to stake a claim for England in Roy Hodgson's starting XI for Euro' 2016, with Wayne Rooney, Harry Kane and Jamie Vardy all currently ahead of him in the pecking order.


    Bournemouth and Liverpool have only met on eight occasions and four of those meetings have occurred in the past two-and-a-quarter years, with Liverpool winning on all four of those occasions. The first four meetings between the two sides all took place in the FA Cup between 1927 and 1968, when Bournemouth were known as 'Bournemouth and Boscombe Athletic' and Liverpool won both ties having been taken to a replay. The Reds were also 2-0 victors in the fourth round of the 2014 FA Cup and 3-1 winners in the quarter-finals of the following season's League Cup. Both matches played between the teams at Anfield this season finished 1-0 to Liverpool, with Christian Benteke's goal enough to secure victory in August and Nathaniel Clyne scoring the winner in October.

    Bournemouth Team News

    Junior Stanislas could make his return to the Bournemouth side after spending two-and-a-half months out with a hamstring injury but Benik Afobe is still not fit to return after missing the past two matches with the same injury. Harry Arter is not yet fit to return from an achilles injury, which has sidelined him for a month, while Adam Smith and Tokelo Rantie miss out with hernia and muscle injuries respectively. Tyrone Mings hasn't featured for the first-team since August with a torn ligament in the knee and will not make his long-awaited return until next season.

    Liverpool Team News

    Liverpool are set to make a number of changes from the 4-3 victory against Borussia Dortmund on Thursday night, with Daniel Sturridge set to start the match in attack in place of Divock Origi. Emre Can serves the second match of a two-game domestic suspension, with Joe Allen likely to deputise, and both Kevin Stewart and Sheyi Ojo could return after impressing last weekend against Stoke. Christian Benteke, Jordan Henderson, Danny Ings, Joe Gomez, (all knee) and Jordan Rossiter (hamstring) all miss out through injury.

    Score Prediction

    Bournemouth 0-2 Liverpool
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    Item Reviewed: Bournemouth vs Liverpool Match Preview Rating: 5 Reviewed By: Richard Tufft
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