With the dream of an unbeaten season and potential domestic double up in smoke, the challenge for Liverpool on Saturday at Anfield versus Bournemouth is to get themselves right lest their European campaign becomes a nightmare.
After playing with fire in rallying to defeat West Ham United, Liverpool (26-1-1) finally took an «L» last weekend when a desperate Watford side trying to avoid relegation ran out deserved 3-0 winners at Vicarage Road. The two performances perhaps magnified the absence of talisman and midfielder Jordan Henderson as he recovers from a hamstring injury, and there was no lack of concern following the Merseysiders’ FA Cup exit at the hands of Chelsea on Tuesday in a 2-0 defeat.
Jurgen Klopp started a mix of starters and reserves, holding out first-choice strikers Roberto Firmino and Mohamed Salah until the 70th and 80th minutes, respectively, and resting keeper Alisson and right back Trent Alxander-Arnold among seven changes. But Liverpool put together another disjointed performance and have now shipped eight goals in losing three of their last four across all competitions.
Not counting their Carabao Cup loss to Aston Villa and replay versus Shrewsbury Town in which they fielded their kiddie corps, Liverpool had conceded the same amount of goals in 20 games.
«Look, it went our way for so long because we defended outstandingly,» Klopp told the club’s official website. «Usually you don’t get a lot of chances against us and stuff like this, but now we have to admit that in the last three games – [maybe] four – we have conceded absolutely too many goals, that’s true.
«The performance tonight was completely different [than] at Watford. Against Watford it was really bad, tonight it was not bad. Tonight it was a really super-intense game.»
Liverpool still enjoy a 22-point lead atop the table and need just 12 to claim their first title since 1988 and their long-sought first in the Premier League era. They also enter this match looking to extend their Premier League record-home winning streak at Anfield to 22 matches and an unbeaten run on the red part of Merseyside to 55 matches (44-10-0) since a 2-1 loss to Crystal Palace on April 23, 2017.
Liverpool’s current home winning streak in league play at Anfield began with a 3-0 victory over Bournemouth (7-6-15) on Feb. 19, 2019. The Cherries enter this contest in a far more desperate plight than last term, currently at the top of the drop on 27 points as they trail both Brighton and Hove Albion and West Ham United on goal difference.
Eddie Howe’s team are winless in their last three matches but did claim a point with a 2-2 draw versus Chelsea at home last Saturday. Jefferson Lerma and Joshua King scored goals three minutes apart early in the second half for the Cherries, who were denied all three points late when Marcos Alonso completed his brace five minutes from time.
While getting the lone point was disappointing, Bournemouth can take solace in the fact their inferior goal difference is barely inferior – Brighton are minus-14 and West Ham are minus-16 to Bournemouth’s minus-17, which means they have some margin of error heading into this contest.
«Both halves the first 20 minutes we had a lot of the ball,» defender Nathan Ake told AFCBTV. «There’s no time for negativity, no time for all that. We know that we have to keep positive, everyone was positive and confident. It’s trying to get over the line. You take the point, but there were phases in the game where we were too deep instead of staying positive, which is something we have to work on.»
Maintaining that positivity outside Dean Court has been a challenge for Bournemouth, who have dropped five on the trot on the road and have claimed just 11 points from their last 17 league matches (3-2-12). The Cherries have struggled to find any rhythm on the road of late with just two goals in their last seven while shipping 13 in that stretch.
Bournemouth’s road struggles have also continued against the Big Six, with a win at Stamford Bridge their lone positive in three tries. They still must make two trips to Manchester among their final four road games following this contest.
Liverpool are seeking their third successive league double over Bournemouth after a 3-0 hiding Dec. 7. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Naby Keita both scored late in the first half before Salah put the game out of reach on 54 minutes. The Merseysiders have won five straight via clean sheet versus Bournemouth and carry a 453-minute shutout streak into this contest since King scored in the 87th minute of a 2-2 draw at Anfield in 2017.
That also stands as Bournemouth’s lone point in four previous trips to Liverpool in the top flight.