The view from Bournemouth: 'Counter-attack can cause nightmares'

Liverpool travel to the Vitality Stadium for Saturday’s early kick-off with AFC Bournemouth seeking to secure a third Premier League victory in the space of seven days.

Jürgen Klopp’s Reds beat city rivals Everton in dramatic fashion last Sunday, travelled to Turf Moor and secured a comeback win against Burnley on Wednesday, and now make the long trip south to face a Cherries side lying seventh in the table.

Eddie Howe’s men were quick out of the blocks this season – racking up six wins in their first 10 games to stay among the early pace-setters – but have struggled to clear a few hurdles more recently.

Tuesday night’s 2-1 triumph at home to Huddersfield Town ended a run of four defeats, although three of those came against traditional top-six sides Manchester United (2-1), Arsenal (2-1) and Manchester City (3-1). 

And the Cherries caused problems in all three matches.

So, what can we expect from Howe’s men on the south coast on Saturday?

We caught up with Bournemouth Daily Echo sports writer Ned Payne (@nedpayne_echo) to get the lowdown…

Are Bournemouth back on track after Tuesday’s win?

In a result sense, absolutely. In terms of performance level, there is plenty to improve on.

Huddersfield created lots of chances – 23 in total – and enjoyed 67 per cent of possession, which is almost unheard of at Vitality Stadium.

In the first half, the ease with which they carved open the defence was quite alarming. Bournemouth managed the game better in the second period, but it was certainly not a vintage display.

Has Howe changed anything after those four defeats in a tricky run of fixtures?

Howe isn’t a manager keen on wholesale changes or major shifts in approach.

The changes in personnel have been largely enforced by injuries to the likes of Adam Smith and Dan Gosling, while Jefferson Lerma was suspended for the Manchester City game.

The team selection and formation against Huddersfield was not a surprise but the performance was, considering they had caused Manchester City such discomfort three days before.

Are Callum Wilson, Joshua King and Ryan Fraser the best front three outside the top six? 

On current form, I’d have to say yes, although I’d chuck David Brooks in the mix as well as he is a key part of the attacking threat.

Fraser is as quick a footballer as you will see, and he is racking up assists and goals like it’s going out of fashion.

Wilson’s all-round game has improved hugely and he can’t stop scoring, King is an underrated grafter who can finish as well, and Brooks brings fearlessness, energy and creativity.

All four of them are great to watch.

How do you expect Bournemouth to line up?

Asmir Begovic; Charlie Daniels, Steve Cook, Nathan Ake, Tyrone Mings, Simon Francis; Andrew Surman, Jefferson Lerma; Joshua King, Callum Wilson, Ryan Fraser.

What is this team’s biggest strength?

The pace at which Bournemouth counter-attack has given so many teams defensive nightmares this season.

The most extreme example was when they went to Watford and won 4-0 – with all the goals coming inside the opening 47 minutes. The ruthless efficiency of it was remarkable.

And what is giving you cause for concern?

Bournemouth need to be rock solid at the back if they are to get anything out of this game.

They looked very nervy at times against Huddersfield and a lot of their defensive play, in the first half especially, was reactive rather than proactive.

Keeping the ball better has to be a priority as well. Lewis Cook has been ruled out for six to nine months with a serious knee injury so they will have to make a change in central midfield.

Which key player battle could decide the game?

It will be fascinating to see how Virgil van Dijk deals with Wilson.

The Bournemouth striker is in the form of his life having scored nine goals in 17 games and netted on his England debut last month.

Not only quick and a terrific finisher, he is also not afraid of a physical battle. The Liverpool defence will have to be alert at all times if they want to stop him.

What is your prediction for the match?

Given Liverpool’s unbeaten record in the Premier League this season and the avalanche of attacking talent at Klopp’s disposal, it’s tough to see past an away win.

Bournemouth will put up a real fight but I’m going for a 2-1 win to the Reds.