Five point preview: Liverpool
AFC Bournemouth face a tough test against Liverpool this weekend, who are fresh from making the Champions League semi-finals on Wednesday.
Ahead of the fixture, we looked at five key points to preview the game.
Champions League progress
The Reds will be buoyed by their recent Champions League progress against Manchester City. A remarkable first leg at Anfield saw Mo Salah, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Sadio Mane fire Liverpool into a 3-0 lead at half-time.
With the score remaining the same on the final whistle, it was over to the Etihad Stadium on Wednesday for the second leg. An early goal from Gabriel Jesus made for an intense first half but Salah soon calmed nerves with a leveller, before Roberto Firmino netted a winner.
Following the tie, Jurgen Klopp described reaching the semi-finals as a ‘cool moment’.
Who can stop Salah?
Salah is the Premier League’s leading goalscorer this season, having arrived at Anfield in the summer. The Egyptian international currently sits on 29 domestic goals, four ahead of second place Harry Kane and eight ahead of Sergio Aguero in third.
In his last 16 games, Salah has failed to score on just three occasions in all competitions and recently helped his side make the Champions League semi-finals with a goal at the Etihad.
However, his most memorable performance this season was perhaps his appearance against Watford last month, netting four goals in a 5-0 win on Merseyside.
There’s no doubt that Liverpool have one of the best front lines in football, hitting 75 Premier League goals this season, a number only bettered by table toppers Manchester City.
Additionally, the side have the third highest pass rate in English football’s top flight this term, with their 19,626 beaten by just Arsenal and City.
With regard to crosses, Jurgen Klopp’s side also find themselves in the top five, putting in 662 across the course of the Premier League campaign.
At the back
Whilst Liverpool certainly display plenty of dominance up front, their back four have also gained plaudits for their performances. The signing of Virgil van Dijk in January has only strengthened Klopp’s defence, with the newly named Dutch captain helping keep six clean sheets since penning a deal.
Additionally, the recent performances of Trent Alexander-Arnold have also caught the eye, with the likes of Rio Ferdinand and Steven Gerrard commenting on two fantastic Champions League performances.
This Sunday marks the anniversary of the Hillsborough Disaster and all players will be wearing black armbands to remember the 96 that tragically lost their lives.
With the game a 5.30pm kick-off, there will also be a minute’s silence ahead of the referee’s whistle.
Smith to miss trip to Liverpool
Eddie Howe has confirmed that Adam Smith will miss out on the weekend’s Premier League game against Liverpool at Anfield.
Smith has been absent since the Cherries’ 2-1 home victory over West Bromwich Albion, after leaving the field on 57 minutes with a knee injury.
“Adam smith will definitely miss out, as will Junior Stanislas,” the manager said in his pre-match press conference.
“We’re obviously missing Junior for the remainder of the season.
“Adam is making good progress and we’re continuing to monitor his progress to see where he’s at. We’re hopeful that we’ll see him before end of season.”
Local reporter insight on Liverpool
With the end of the 2017/18 Premier League season now in sight, AFC Bournemouth travel to Anfield to take on Liverpool this weekend.
And ahead of the game afcb.co.uk spoke to James Pearce, Liverpool reporter for the Liverpool Echo, to preview the game.
afcb.co.uk: How would you summarise Liverpool’s season so far?
JP: It has certainly been exciting. That’s obviously what you want as a reporter and it is the same for fans. Liverpool still have plenty to play for at this stage of the season, finding themselves sitting in third place in the league and in the semi-finals of the Champions League. There was a bit of doom and gloom around after selling Philippe Coutinho, but they have kicked on impressively since the turn of the year and other players have stepped up and delivered, especially the front three.
afcb.co.uk: Are you able to find any words to describe Mohamed Salah’s season?
JP: We’re running out of superlatives. Extraordinary. Beyond anyone’s wildest dreams. To score 39 goals, playing effectively as a winger, is remarkable. His composure and technique are just staggering, and he’s made so many of his goals look so easy, none more so than the one against Manchester City the other night. He’s now just one goal away from being the first Liverpool player since Ian Rush to score 40 goals in a single season.
afcb.co.uk: How much will the Champions League ties against Manchester City have taken out of the squad?
JP: Physically, the most recent game at City was gruelling, and they were given the run around during the first half. In the second half it was quite comfortable, especially after Liverpool scored their goal. Klopp will have had to bring his players back down to earth and will be trying to focus minds ahead of this game. Liverpool have a decent cushion in terms of securing a top four spot in the league, but he’ll want to get that wrapped up sooner rather than later. That would then allow him to rest some players either side of the Champions League semi-final games.
afcb.co.uk: What kind of a game are you expecting this weekend?
JP: It’ll open and entertaining, as it always is when Liverpool play Bournemouth. Bournemouth play in the right way, so it won’t be one of these occasions where teams in the bottom half of the table come to Anfield and shuts up shop. Eddie Howe likes his teams to play out from the back, and his approach isn’t too dissimilar to that of Klopp’s.
afcb.co.uk: And finally, a score prediction?
JP: I’ll go for a 3-1 Liverpool win.
James is on Twitter, @JamesPearceEcho.
Ref watch: Kavanagh in charge at Anfield
Chris Kavanagh will be the man in the middle as the Cherries travel to Liverpool for Saturday’s evening kick-off.
The referee has officiated of 12 top flight games this season, handing out 41 yellow cards, two red cards and awarding three penalties.
However, Kavanagh has yet to take charge either AFC Bournemouth or Liverpool in any competition this term.
The Manchester-born referee started officiating local football in 1998, aged just 13 and was promoted to the National League in 2012.
Having refereed in the Football League frequently during the 2014/15 and 2016/17 campaigns, his first Premier League game came in April 2017, with West Brom and Southampton playing at the Hawthorns.
Now with almost a year of top flight experience, Kavangah will take charge at Anfield on Saturday and be assisted by Lee Betts and Peter Kirkup. Bobby Madley will be the fourth official.