Bournemouth v Liverpool Saturday 8 December, 12:30 Live on Sky Sports
Bournemouth back to winning ways but for how long?
After a strong start to the season, Bournemouth were in need of a win after a run of four defeats in-a-row so a meeting with Premier League strugglers, Huddersfield, at home on Tuesday night looked like a welcome fixture. Early goals from Callum Wilson and Ryan Fraser saw the Cherries race to an early 2-0 lead and they hung on to win 2-1 but it was a nervy second half and the Terriers deserved something from the game.
Huddersfield dominated possession (68%), had twice as many corners as the hosts and 23 shots to Bournemouth's six. Their manager, David Wagner, claimed his side had gifted the home side their two goals, suggesting that Huddersfield "didn't deserve anything out of the game because they had given presents away. It was Christmas for Bournemouth." But the Cherries boss gave a more accurate reflection, claiming Huddersfield could feel hard done by.
Tuesday's victory lifted Bournemouth back up to seventh in the Premier League, following defeats against Manchester United, Newcastle, Arsenal and Manchester City, and they'll be keen to build on the win but they weren't convincing enough to suggest they can halt Liverpool's powerful title charge.
Liverpool looking to leap the leaders
December is the month when title challenging managers are forced to gamble. Games come thick and fast and decisions have to be made. Risk fatigue and injury by continuously playing your best players or rotate rigorously and risk a loss in continuity. Jurgen Klopp went for the latter at relegation favourites, Burnley, on Wednesday night and it very nearly backfired...
Klopp made seven changes from the side that had scrambled a 1-0 win at home to Everton last weekend and with Sadio Mane injured, he changed the forward line entirely, leaving both Roberto Firmino and Mo Salah on the bench.
The Reds looked in trouble when Jack Cork bundled in a dubious goal in the 54th minute to put the robust Clarets ahead but the excellent James Milner, who will be playing in his 500th Premier League game on Saturday, calmly put the two sides level just after the hour mark before Klopp put Firmino and Salah on, and the pair affected the game brilliantly.
Firmino put Liverpool ahead in the 69th minute and moments after Alisson had saved a Ben Mee header that would have seen the home side draw level, Salah fed Xherdan Shaqiri to finish them off in injury time.
Wednesday night's win was the sort that builds belief. The type of result a title winning side looks back on with pride. Burnley were strong in the tackle - too strong - but Klopp's men overcame Sean Dyce's tough man tactics and their tally of 39 points from their first 15 games is Liverpool's best-ever start to a top-flight season. With Spurs losing the North London derby at the weekend and with Arsenal and Chelsea dropping points in midweek, the Premier League title race looks increasingly like a two-team tussle and a lot will depend on how well Klopp and Pep Guardiola shuffle their decks in December.
A win for Liverpool on Saturday would see them go back to the top of the table - albeit maybe only temporarily with City playing Chelsea away on Saturday night- and they can be backed at 5.80to win the Premier League. Given it already looks like it's them or City, that isn't an awful price.
Liverpool the play but patience required
Burnley's tactics came at a cost to Klopp's charges, with Joe Gomez stretched off injured in the first half. He's highly unlikely to make the line-up on Saturday and the already injured trio of Dejan Lovren, Andy Robertson and Mane, can't be considered certain to return either but it isn't all bad news. Summer signing, Naby Keita, put in an excellent performance at Turf Moor, just as squad depth is starting to look like it could be an issue.
With a make or break Champions League encounter on Tuesday with Napoli and a potentially tough assignment at home to Manchester United on the horizon, a week on Sunday, Klopp has some tough decisions to make ahead of Saturday's trip to the Arena Stadium.
Bournemouth, on paper, are a much tougher test than Burnley and I suspect Wednesday's sweeping changes were made with this harder examination in mind and I expect to see at least one of the big guns rolled back in. Firmino has a great record against the Cherries, with three goals and two assists in his last five matches against them, so I'll be very surprised if he doesn't return to the starting line-up.
Liverpool have a strong record against Bournemouth, losing just one of their last 13 and winning last season's fixtures 4-0 at the Arena and 3-0 at Anfield. Despite their injury concerns, they're the worthy favourites.
At 1.70, it's tempting to play them in the outright market given the only points dropped so far this season have been against the likes of Chelsea, City and Arsenal but they've been drawing each of their last three Premier League matches and four of their last five at half time, with the only exception being Fulham at home, when they only led 1-0.
The Reds haven't been lightning-fast starters of late so I'm happy to take a chance that they'll take their time to get going again on Saturday. Odds of anything around the 4/1 mark about Draw/Liverpool in the Half Time/Full Time market looks fair and I'm taking a tiny chance on Bournemouth/Liverpool at a juicy price too. In contrast to Liverpool, the Cherries have been starting matches well, scoring in the first half in each of their last six Premier League encounters.
Goals on the agenda according to the stats
Games involving Bournemouth often result in plenty of goals and 80% of their matches so far this season have produced at least three. Over 2 ½ players have been rewarded 50% of the time when Liverpool have travelled so it's absolutely no surprise to see Over the strong favourite in the Over/Under 2.5 Goals market.
Yes is also odds-on at around 1.70 in the Both teams to Score market but that makes no appeal given Liverpool have conceded just six in their first 15 Premier League ties.
Same Game Multi
If you fancy combining two or more scenarios to build a bet that pays handsomely, click on the Same Game Multi tab at the top of the Sportsbook market and pick two or more selections to build a wager. For example, Liverpool to win and Firmino to score again pays £3.25 for £1 stake but adding a draw at half time pays a juicy £10.99 for a £1 stake.
2 Pts Draw/Liverpool in the Half Time/Full Time Market @ 5.30
0.5 Pt Bournemouth/Liverpool in the Half Time/Full Time Market @ 27.00