Championship high flyers AFC Bournemouth welcome Premier League Liverpool to the Goldsands Stadium as the two teams clash in the League Cup Quarter final.
Liverpool beat Bournemouth in the fourth round of the FA Cup last season when Victor Moses and Daniel Sturridge netted in a full strength starting line-up that also included the imperious Luis Suarez and Steven Gerrard sitting in midfield. For long spells Bournemouth matched the might of Liverpool but the favourites proved the more clinical in front of goal and progressed through with the victory. Bournemouth have significantly improved since last season whilst Liverpool have regressed dramatically backwards following the departure of the world class Suarez, injury to goal scoring Sturridge, Gerrard ageing another year and a host of poor summer signings who have simply failed to perform to the required standards needed to play for an illustrious club such as Liverpool.
Cherries Fans are getting great value for money down on the south coast. Bournemouth are like a welterweight club trying to swing with the championship middleweights but have so far have proved more than a match for their bigger club counterparts. Bournemouth’s twelve game unbeaten run has seen them surge to the top of the championship table and has seen manager Eddie Howe deservedly drawing the plaudits from all corners of the football fraternity.
Capped at England Under 21 level as a player Howe spent most of his career at the club where he is now thriving as manager so he knows the club and league football inside out. He comes across as an articulate manager, a clear communicator who concisely delivers his message and his players have certainly had no trouble in understanding and implementing his footballing philosophy. His team are the out and out top scorers in all divisions having netted 44 goals in 21 league games and have been even more rampant in the final third in the past couple of months netting 32 goals in their last twelve matches in all competitions. That’s easily in excess of two and half goals per game.
Their Attacking prowess more than makes up for any defensive vulnerability they may have. Bournemouth have coped with the departure of Lewis Grabban- who scored 22 goals for them last season- to divisional rivals Norwich City in surprisingly good fashion. Howe has shown that he is a shrewd operator in the transfer market replacing Grabban with 22 year old Ex Coventry City youngster, Callum Wilson, who has scored 12 goals in all competitions so far this season. Also worth a mention is 25 year old attacking midfielder Matt Ritchie who has the most assists of any player in the second tier of English football (10) and has also weighed in with his fair share of goals (4 so far this campaign). Ritchie could be the key player for them in this tie as is definitely worth keeping an eye out for. Expect to see him fizzing about the Dean Court turf with boundless energy alongside the likes of Arter and O’Kane and Pugh.
Whilst Bournemouth are in a no lose situation the pressure continues to mount on Liverpool and Brendan Rodgers. This match will no doubt prove to be a stern test of Liverpool’s ability and character against a high flying, high intensity championship club. The footballing integrity of several Liverpool players have been called into question this season and they will need to follow the example of talismanic club captain Steven Gerrard in rolling their sleeves up and taking responsibility. However, it just doesn’t look like a lot of them have it in them to do just that.
Could Eddie’s know-howe prove to be more than a match for Rodger’s notepad? Even if they can’t pull off the win, Bournemouth’s rise under the orchestration of Eddie Howe has been nothing short of remarkable and has a small south coast club not just dreaming of the promised land, but in with a genuine chance of promotion to the Premier League.