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First team

Media view: Expert insight on Liverpool


AFC Bournemouth AFC Bournemouth

AFC Bournemouth will be hoping to build on their 2-2 draw with Chelsea when they face runaway Premier League leaders Liverpool on Saturday (12.30pm kick-off).

Despite seeing their impressive 44-match unbeaten run in the top flight surprisingly ended by Watford five days ago, Jurgen Klopp’s team remain 22 points clear at the summit.

However, defeat at Vicarage Road ruined their hopes of eclipsing Arsenal’s record of 49 games ­– set by Arsene Wenger’s Invincibles – and halted their sequence of 18 wins on the trot.

The Reds faced the Hornets having been given a scare by West Ham who took the lead against them before eventually going down 3-2 at Anfield on February 24th.

And following the setback in Hertfordshire, Klopp’s team returned south and exited the FA Cup at the hands of Chelsea on Tuesday – a third successive defeat on the road.

The first reverse had come in the first leg of their Champions League last 16 clash against Atletico Madrid on February 18th, leaving Liverpool facing a 1-0 deficit in the second leg on Wednesday.

For the record, the Reds last lost a Premier League game at Anfield in April 2017 when Crystal Palace triumphed 2-1 just 18 days after the Cherries had secured their only point at the venue with Benik Afobe and Joshua King on target in a 2-2 draw.

Ahead of the clash, afcb.co.uk caught up with Paul Gorst, who covers the fortunes of Liverpool for the Liverpool Echo.

afcb.co.uk: The long unbeaten run had to end eventually – can you put your finger on what went wrong at Watford?

PG: It’s a strange one isn't it, to go 44 games unbeaten in the Premier League and then be swept aside so convincingly by a team flirting with relegation.

I actually said in my Echo match report that it was difficult to put a defining finger on what just went wrong, because so much did.

These world-class players who had lost just once in 65 Premier League games were abject.

The rarest of off days, to a man. Every player was well below par and they were bullied all throughout the game.

I had said for some time that it would take something special to beat this Liverpool team, but I was wrong. Watford just wanted and needed it more.

afcb.co.uk: With Saturday’s game coming three days before the crucial Champions League last 16 second leg against Atletico Madrid, do you expect Klopp to rest players?

PG: I think he will be desperate to wrap up the Premier League title as quickly as he can so I don't expect too much in the way of rotation this weekend.

He is already without captain Jordan Henderson who has been so influential this season, so I think he will still name a strong line-up. I’m expecting the big guns to feature.

afcb.co.uk: Having not lost a Premier League game at Anfield for almost three years, in your opinion, how do the Cherries go about stopping Liverpool?

PG: That is the million dollar question, isn't it!

I think they need an early goal, something to hold on to and battle to keep.

We’ve seen recently against West Ham and Atletico Madrid how difficult it can be for the Reds when the opposition score early on.

Liverpool barely had a half-chance once Atletico had taken the lead and there was so much about the Reds that was unconvincing until they equalised against the Hammers at Anfield. 

I think that is probably the best way to bring down this near three-year unbeaten run at Anfield, but so many have tried and failed. 

afcb.co.uk: Bill Shankly’s idea was to “build Liverpool into a bastion of invincibility” – do you think Klopp is doing likewise?

PG: I think there's no question that is exactly what Jurgen Klopp is doing at Anfield.

World and European champions with a 22-point lead at the summit of the Premier League; they have lost just two games in nearly two full seasons. It would be difficult to argue otherwise, wouldn’t it?

I'm 32 and this is without question the best Liverpool team I have seen in my lifetime. I'm too young to remember John Barnes, Peter Beardsley and John Aldridge of 1990, but this side would definitely give them a game. 

afcb.co.ukAre any first-choice players either injured or suspended against the Cherries?

PG: Jurgen Klopp said James Milner would be fit to play as is Joe Gomez, but Naby Keita remains a doubt and Jordan Henderson is almost certain to miss out. Xherdan Shaqiri is expected to be absent. 

afcb.co.ukWhat’s the most hilarious thing you’ve seen Jurgen Klopp do in your time watching and covering the club?

PG: I once asked Klopp a question in the open press conference in my reasonably strong Scouse accent and he didn't quite catch what I said.

So when he learned I was asking about Xherdan Shaqiri, he took it upon himself to say 'Jurgen...Xherdan Shaqiri' in his best Scouse impression!

That was quite funny. I was lucky that didn't go viral! Other than that, he's just great to ask football questions to. He always gives a fascinating response and it's a joy to speak to him at Melwood every week.

afcb.co.uk: What’s your score prediction?

PG: Sorry Cherries, but I can't quite see Liverpool being quite as accommodating as they were at Watford. 2-0 to the Reds.

You can follow Paul on Twitter – @ptgorst

Match officials: Paul Tierney (referee), Daniel Cook (assistant), Constantine Hatzidakis (assistant), Mike Dean (fourth official), Michael Oliver (VAR), Andy Halliday (assistant VAR).

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