Liverpool vs Bournemouth Preview: Reds look to steady ship after wobble
(Photo by David Horton - CameraSport via Getty Images)

Liverpool can move 25 points clear at the top of the Premier League and put their recent blip to an end by beating Bournemouth at Anfield on Saturday lunchtime.

The Reds have seen their hopes of an unbeaten campaign and a treble dashed in the space of a few days, remarkably falling to a 3-0 defeat at Watford before being knocked out of the FA Cup by Chelsea.

They have been vulnerable defensively and tame as an attacking force since returning from the winter break, but this may be the ideal fixture to arrest their slide.

18th-placed Bournemouth have lost 3-0 on their last two visits to Anfield.

They battled for an impressive point at home to Chelsea last weekend, but will be wary of their opponents striking back here.

With home games against Crystal Palace and Newcastle on the horizon, this is unlikely to be a fixture earmarked by Eddie Howe as he looks to steer his side to safety.

Last time out

Liverpool's 3-0 victory on the South Coast in December was very straightforward indeed.

Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain opened the scoring on 35 minutes, with Naby Keita all but killing the contest when he struck before halftime.

Mohamed Salah added a third early in the second half and the Reds cruised to the whistle, with the hosts able to muster only three attempts. 

Their classic 4-3 comeback win at the Vitality in December 2016 remains their only-ever victory against the most successful side in English football.

Team news

Alisson Becker faces a spell on the sidelines for the second time this season after injuring his hip in training.

Adrian is set to deputise not only for this fixture, but for the vital Champions League last 16 clash with Atletico Madrid in midweek.

Skipper Jordan Henderson is making progress in his recovery from a hamstring problem but will not be ready to face the Cherries.

Xherdan Shaqiri remains out with a calf problem.

Bournemouth will be without their joint top-scorer Harry Wilson against his parent club.

Lewis Cook, who returned to the starting line-up against Chelsea, will hope to feature after picking up a knock.

Chris Mepham, Charlie Daniels (both knee), David Brooks (ankle) and Arnaut Danjuma (foot) are long-term absentees.

Predicted line-ups

Liverpool (4-3-3): Adrian; Alexander-Arnold, Gomez, Van Dijk, Robertson; Fabinho, Milner, Wijnaldum; Salah, Firmino, Mane.

Bournemouth (5-2-3): Ramsdale; Stacey, Cook, Francis, Ake, Smith; Lerma, Billing; Fraser, Wilson, King.

Key clashes

Mohamed Salah vs Adam Smith

Salah has a prolific record against Bournemouth, bagging seven goals in five meetings since he returned to England.

He failed to find the net against their fellow strugglers Norwich and Watford, but he has played his best football at Anfield this season and he will sense a real opportunity to boost his prospects of retaining the Golden Boot here.

Smith will likely be tasked with keeping him on the periphery, though he'll no doubt need some support. Howe may lean towards playing three centre-halves in order to effectively double-up on the Egyptian. 

Fabinho vs Jefferson Lerma

Liverpool's midfield anchor Fabinho has been somewhat off the pace since he returned from a lengthy injury lay-off but Klopp will likely allow him to play his way into full sharpness.

Here he will go up against the equally tigerish Jefferson Lerma, who will set out to thwart the Brazilian's efforts to dictate proceedings. 

The managers

Jurgen Klopp has warned that Bournemouth's lowly position may well belie their true quality given that they have been so unfortunate with injuries up to this point.

"We face an opponent in Bournemouth who have been fighting with all they have for the league for months already," he told the press

"They had a really tough period with a lot of injuries; not all of them, but now a lot of these boys are back, especially the front-line is now back [to] what usually, before the season, would be their front three, even if they played a different system before it.

"They are in a tough moment; we respect that and we wish Bournemouth and Eddie Howe all the best, but not in the game tomorrow."

Eddie Howe, meanwhile, has called for his players to focus only on maximising their own performance rather than being daunted by their opposition. 

"This is probably the ultimate test this season," he said, as quoted by FourFourTwo

“This game for us is probably the hardest one we will face. That is why we have got to certainly rise to it, embrace it and attack it from our perspective.

“We can only control what we do. The lads have trained really well and were lifted by the way we played against Chelsea.

“We are responding very well psychologically to the challenge in front of us.”