Liverpool vs. Bournemouth
Venue: Anfield Stadium
Kick off: 1:30PM
Liverpool will be looking to return to winning ways after an uncharacteristically poor spell of form when they welcome relegation-threatened Bournemouth to Anfield at lunchtime.
Jurgen Klopp’s side have lost three of their last four games across all competitions but are firm favourites to get their campaign back on track against a Bournemouth side who sit inside the bottom three with 10 games of the season remaining.
After a season of winning week after week and breaking records left, right and centre, Liverpool have finally suffered a slump in form since returning from the winter break.
Debate as to whether Klopp’s side deserve to be regarded as among the best teams in English football history has been put on hold following a week in which they have seen their hopes of matching Arsenal’s Invincibles and Manchester United’s treble-winners ended.
Tuesday night’s 2-0 FA Cup defeat at Stamford Bridge means that there are just two trophies left for Liverpool to fight for this season, and it may be difficult for the players to avoid having one eye on the must-win Champions League return leg against Atletico Madrid on Wednesday night.
While their defence of the European crown remains up in the air, it still seems like only a matter of time before they regain their place as the champions of England, 30 years after lifting their 18th and most recent title.
Last weekend’s shock 3-0 defeat to Watford – a result which statistically ranks among the biggest upsets in Premier League history – was undoubtedly a setback, but one which is unlikely to have a telling impact on the end result of the campaign with Liverpool still needing just 12 more points to guarantee the title.
The loss does mean that they may not be able to wrap things up as early as they might have hoped, but if the top two continue to win from now on, then it means Liverpool would have the chance to clinch the title at the home of the current champions Manchester City on April 5.
Regardless of the seemingly inevitable destination of the Premier League trophy, the recent defeats have thrown up issues which need correcting for Liverpool, most notably a sudden vulnerability in defence, which has seen Klopp’s side concede seven goals in their last three outings.
Discounting the EFL Cup tie against Aston Villa when the Under-23 side played, that is as many goals as Liverpool had shipped in their previous 20 matches before then.
It is the first time since August 2016 that Liverpool have conceded two or more goals in three consecutive games, and almost all of them have been down to individual defensive errors.
There is also a concern at the other end considering the three recent defeats have all seen Liverpool fail to score; the Chelsea match was different as they created plenty of chances, but against both Atletico Madrid and Watford they looked short of ideas in the attacking third and managed only one shot on target in those two games combined.
Indeed, the Watford loss was the first time Klopp’s side had drawn a blank in the league since March 2019 – 36 games ago – while they have not failed to score in successive top-flight outings since May 2018.
Of course, the recent slump must be kept in the context of what has still been a season the likes of which we may never see again, but failure to pick up all three points against Bournemouth on Saturday would crank the pressure up a few more notches, particularly ahead of Atletico’s visit.
Returning to Anfield should help them, though; while Liverpool have now lost three successive away games for the first time since November 2014, they have won their last 21 league outings in front of their own fans and are unbeaten in 54 stretching all the way back to April 2017.
Another victory today would see Klopp’s class of 2019-20 surpass Bill Shankly’s 1972 team in terms of most consecutive home wins in English top-flight history, and given Bournemouth’s recent troubles on the road it would be another major surprise if that did not happen.
The Cherries make the trip to Anfield having lost each of their last five away outings and eight of their last nine in the top flight, while no team have lost more games on their travels this season.
Matters are more encouraging at home, where Bournemouth have only lost one of their last five league games, but their away form does not appear to put them in the best position to take advantage of a Liverpool side showing more signs of mortality than at any other stage of the campaign.
Eddie Howe’s side have now slipped into the relegation zone despite faring better than Liverpool did against Chelsea in their last outing, earning a 2-2 draw against Frank Lampard’s side having scored twice in the space of three second-half minutes.
Watford’s victory over Liverpool ensured that Bournemouth would end the weekend in the bottom three, incidentally, and Howe will no doubt be looking at the Hornets’ blueprint for inspiration of how to pull off a similar shock.
Nigel Pearson’s side were similarly written off before ending the joint-longest winning run and second-longest unbeaten streak in English top-flight history, going on to record the biggest victory by a team inside the bottom three over top of the league since 1985.
Emulating that achievement at Anfield is a much tougher test, of course, but the result will have at least given Bournemouth some belief, while Liverpool’s veil of invincibility has undoubtedly slipped in recent weeks.
The Cherries may also draw encouragement from the fact that they have beaten both Chelsea and Manchester United already this season, although a visit to Anfield is an entirely different proposition right now.
Bournemouth are likely to need one or two surprise results during the run-in, though, with Howe’s side still due to face six of the current top seven in their final 10 games of the campaign.
Liverpool possible XI: Adrian, Alexander-Arnold, Gomez, Van Dijk, Robertson, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Fabinho, Wijnaldum, Salah, Firmino, Mane.
Bournemouth possible XI: Ramsdale, Stacey, S Cook, Ake, Smith, Billing, Lerma, L Cook, Fraser, C Wilson, King.