Survival secured for the Cherries
There is bound to be a jubilant atmosphere around the ground in the final home game on Saturday as the fans celebrate another excellent campaign. They will be looking forward to Premier League football once again next season after a point at home against Stoke City last weekend guaranteed the Dorset club’s survival.
Howe’s side bounced back from a goal down twice at The Vitality Stadium last week to extend their unbeaten run to three games after victories in the previous matches against relegated Middlesbrough and Sunderland.
The Cherries boss is not sitting back and celebrating survival, he and the players are fully focused on the final two games of the season.
“This year the objective was to improve on our 42 points and 16th position. We've got two more games to try and do this”, he said.
That same focus and desire which the players have had from the start of the season is still there according to the manager. “It’s been very competitive, tackles flying in, but that's how the lads play. I think it’s difficult to switch off or relax slightly, the lads have trained very well this week”, Howe added.
Bournemouth have only beaten the Claret’s four times in 25 previous meetings. Howe’s side currently sit in 11th place on 42 points, while Burnley are just two points behind them, lying 14th in the table. In the reverse fixture earlier this season the Cherries suffered a 3-2 defeat at Turf Moor. Two goals in the opening 20 minutes put the home side in control before Benik Afobe pulled a goal back at the end of the first half. George Boyd sealed the points with 15 minutes ago, with Charlie Daniels grabbing a consolation goal in stoppage time.
Howe is full of admiration for Burnley and the job which Sean Dyche has done over the previous three seasons. There were no hard feelings between Howe and his former employers.
He said: “They have been hugely impressive and I’ve got a real fondness for Burnley, I hope they continue to improve and do well.”
Howe confirmed that Dan Gosling is in contention to start the game and they are continuing to monitor Ryan Fraser’s progress as he recovers from an achilles injury. All other injured players have been ruled out including striker Afobe.
When asked about the potential signing of Jermain Defoe, interestingly, Howe did not give his usual answer which usually follows when asked about transfer speculation, he instead replied: “No comment.”
The Cherries boss’ refusal to confirm nor deny the rumours will mean that speculation is only likely to grow as the summer transfer window approaches. Howe did confirm that it is very unlikely that Jack Wilshere will be returning to the club next season. The English midfielder is back at parent club Arsenal recovering from the injury which he picked up during AFC Bournemouth's 4-0 away defeat to Tottenham Hotspur.
AFC Bournemouth face Burnley on Saturday at 3pm, with both sides looking to state their claims to achieve a top half finish as we reach the penultimate game week of an enthralling Premier League season.