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First team

Team news: Rico suspended, too soon for Ake


AFC Bournemouth AFC Bournemouth

AFC Bournemouth have “a couple of worries” on the injury front following Saturday’s match as they get set to host Arsenal at Vitality Stadium on Boxing Day.

Additionally, Diego Rico is a confirmed absentee due to suspension, with Eddie Howe also stating that Nathan Ake is not yet ready to return from his hamstring injury.

“I’m not expecting huge changes to the team,” said Howe in his pre-match press conference. “We’ll wait and see if there’s anyone missing, we had a couple of worries after the game, but I don’t want to reveal who they are. I don’t know myself if they’ll be ready for Arsenal.

“With hamstring injuries it’s difficult to predict when players will be back and Nathan won’t be back for this game.”

Falling short of their attacking best on Saturday in the late defeat to Burnley, Howe detailed the way for his side to rediscover his side’s attacking verve.

“Taking the pressure off the players when they enter the pitch,” he said, “Trying to get them full believing in what they’re doing, they can then play with that carefree belief that we have when we’re at our best.

“Injuries have taken something out of our team and we need to refind that very quickly. Players build up relationships over time but at the moment we’re in that rebuilding stage and that takes time, but that’s the challenge.”

Combining with the injury worries, the Cherries will also have to take on the Gunners without Rico, the left-back picking up a fifth booking of the season and an automatic suspension on Saturday.

As happened on the recent trip to Arsenal’s north London neighbours Tottenham last month, the Cherries take on a team with a new manager in charge, Mikel Arteta watching from the stands at the weekend and leading the side for the first time on Boxing Day.

Howe spoke of the situation: “It’ll be a really tough game, I’m expecting them to play the way he (Arteta) wants them to play, even though it’s a short turnaround between games.

“However, it’s always about us when we play here and refinding that attacking swagger that we need. We have the players to hurt anyone in this division.

“In some senses these games almost suit us. For the crowd to see that we need help, we didn’t give them enough to go off on Saturday.”

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