Jürgen Klopp’s men will welcome a resurgent Bournemouth side to Anfield tonight as the race to finish in the top four heats up. This is a proper banana skin fixture for Liverpool as they have fallen prey to the so-called smaller teams. The Reds are unbeaten in their last four Premier League games whereas Bournemouth have won two of their last three league games.
Despite winning the Merseyside derby, the joy was short-lived for Liverpool as they lost Sadio Mane to a long-term knee injury in the second half. It means the Reds will be without Adam Lallana, Jordan Henderson and Sadio Mane for the visit of the Cherries. Eddie Howe’s men have no major injury concerns before the trip to the north-west. Here are the three key battles which will decide the match between Liverpool and Bournemouth.
Philippe Coutinho vs Adam Smith
The Brazilian got into the groove against Everton which gave an indication of Coutinho’s return back to form after a slow start to the calendar year. He was absolutely colossal against an inexperienced Everton defence and will be relishing his opportunity against a leaky Cherries back line.
Meanwhile, Smith has been a regular for Bournemouth this campaign with him being deployed as a full back and also as a winger at times. He played in defence against Southampton and handled the threat of Dusan Tadic to perfection. He surged ahead with intent and also hit the upright once which reflected his overall impact on the game. But against Liverpool, Smith will be needed to stay back to contain Coutinho and mark him closely to avoid the Brazilian from getting any extra space.
James Milner vs Ryan Fraser
The former Manchester City man, Milner has gone on to become a crucial cog in Liverpool’s wheel, operating from an unconventional position for him. Playing in a left back role for all of the current season, Milner has done exceptionally well and will be out for revenge against Bournemouth. In December’s excruciating 4-3 loss against Bournemouth, Milner had a shocker of a game and the veteran will be looking to get even with the Cherries.
Ryan Fraser was his side’s hero when they beat Liverpool on their home turf. Since then, Fraser has been crucial in Bournemouth’s rise from a mid-season slump and has accumulated 19 appearances in the current season. He also has three goals and two assists to his name. Fraser will have to get the better of Milner if he wants to have any sort of impact on the proceedings.
Dejan Lovren vs Joshua King
After Callum Wilson’s serious injury which ruled him out for the remainder of the season, Joshua King has stepped up and has formed a formidable partnership with Benik Afobe. The duo has scored six goals in their last five appearances together and will be looking to test an inconsistent Liverpool defence.
King will be up against Dejan Lovren who has been good in the big games but has faltered in the other matches which needed the Croatian at his rock solid best. Lovren always does well against big robust strikers but falters against the agile forwards who get behind the central defenders. King is brilliant at that as this battle might very well decide the outcome of the game.