Liverpool v Bournemouth
Saturday March 7, 12:30
Live on BT Sport
Klopp's Liverpool cold after the winter break
Liverpool winning their first Premier League title has been a formality for months rather than weeks. Their nearest challengers, the defending champions, Manchester City, have been matched to retain the trophy for plenty at 200.0199/1 and above and there's even been a few pounds matched at 1000.0, while well over a million has been matched on the Reds winning the league at 1.011/100.
Anything but a victory parade around Liverpool come May is still incomprehensible but all of a sudden, after three defeats in four, and back-to-back losses for the first time in 14 months, this inconspicuous fixture, that for a long while would be chalked up as a certain home win, has more gravitas than expected.
The short winter break appears to have had a damaging effect on Jurgen Klopp's charges. On return, they left it late to edge out bottom of the league Norwich, securing all three points late on when Sadio Mane scored the only goal of the game in the 78th minute.
They then lost the first leg of their Champions League Round of 16 tie, 1-0 at Atletico Madrid, before huffing and puffing at Anfield to come from behind to beat West Ham, a side woefully out of form before the off. Watford then thumped them 3-0 in the Premier League last weekend and they went out of the FA Cup on Tuesday evening. Losing 2-0 at Chelsea.
Given how little attention Klopp gives the domestic cups, and that he's yet to steer the Reds to the last eight in the FA Cup, we probably can't read too much into their latest defeat but it's possibly worth noting that, for a change in the cup, he didn't field a significantly weakened side at Stamford Bridge.
It would be stretching it to say they're having a full-blown wobble but with the second leg against Atletico looming, getting back to winning ways and quickly, will be viewed as imperative. Fortunately, Saturday's lunchtime opponents look ideal.
Bournemouth the perfect opponents for stuttering Reds
Liverpool's record against Bournemouth is very good. They've won their last five Premier League games against the Cherries by an aggregate of 17-0 and they've only ever lost to them once. And that was away from home (4-3) back in 2016.
The Reds have beaten Bournemouth by at least three goals in each of their last five meetings but the stats are against them making it six in-a-row. The only team to ever win six consecutive top-flight games by three or more goals against an opponent is Manchester City against Wolves - way back at the turn of the last century.
Given Liverpool's record against the visitors, that they're unbeaten in their last 54 Premier League home games and that they've won their last 21 in-a-row, it's very hard to envisage anything but a home win - regardless of their current form. They had a great record against Watford though, having won their previous four Premier League matches against them by an aggregate score of 15-0, and breaking another record could cause slight issues.
It's been reported that there was a sense of relief in the dressing room after they'd lost to the Hornets last week, with the pressure of going unbeaten all season starting to tell, so it might be significant that another win here would mean they'd be the first team in English top-flight history to record 22 consecutive home wins. And it's also dangerous to play any opponent when their backs are against the wall - especially if they've started to find a little bit of form at last.
Survival hopes improving for revived Cherries
After a torrid run of form, which saw Bournemouth win just once in 12 Premier League matches (1-0 away at Chelsea), the Cherries were matched at a low of 1.511/2 in the Premier League Relegation market. They hit their lowest point when they lost 1-0 to the seemingly-doomed Norwich midway through January but they've played quite well since then.
They won back-to-back home games against Brighton and Aston Villa and they lost narrowly away at Sheffield United (2-1), having taken an early lead.T he score line at Turf Moor, reading Burnley 3-0 Bournemouth doesn't tell half the story and they were unlucky not to beat Chelsea at home last time out.
The Cherries had a goal harshly disallowed in the first half against Burnley, that would have seen them go one up, and having gone behind, they equalised through Harry Wilson but that too was ruled out. The goal was scrubbed off because of a handball in the build-up. In their own penalty area! Jay Rodriguez slotted home the resultant Burnley penalty and instead of deservedly drawing level, they were 2-0 down and dejected. And they were 2-1 up against Chelsea until Marcus Alonso equalised with five minutes to go.
Bournemouth are now in the bottom three and they're still odds-on for the drop but there are definitely signs of encouragement and with smaller fish to fry going forward, Eddie Howe will view this one as a free hit. Anything at all gained at Anfield will be seen as a huge bonus.
Half time stalemate the best option
No is odds-on in the Both Teams to Score market and that's perhaps a bit surprising given both sides have bagged in 64% of Liverpool's Premier League home games this season but the market looks right to me. Liverpool have kept a clean sheet in their last five matches against the Cherries and both teams have found the net in only 43% of Bournemouth away matches this season. And following their surprising defeat at Vicarage Road, No would have been the correct call in 11 of the last 13 Premier League games involving Liverpool.
There have been at least three goals scored in 71% of Liverpool's Premier League home games this season and 57% of Bournemouth's away matches have seen three or more scored. In addition, there have been at least three goals scored on the last eight occasions these two sides have met in all competitions so the odds of around 1.68/13 for Over in the Over/Under 2.5 Goals market is not too short.
After a run of indifferent form, last week's defeat to Watford was on the cards and I toyed with laying Liverpool but felt their odds of 1.454/9 weren't skinny enough and I feel exactly the same this week. Odds of 1.271/4 in the win market about a team doing something they've done 21 times in-a-row, against a team in the relegation places that's lost eight of their last nine Premier League away games, really isn't too short.
Liverpool rolling up their sleeves and getting back to winning ways against Bournemouth would see the ever-so-slightly raised eyebrows of Man City fans lowered again. It would put them back on track and set them up perfectly for Wednesday's crucial Champions League tie but once again, the value appears to sit in the Half Time/Full Time market.
Liverpool-Liverpool is the odds-on favourite but given they've been drawing at the break in three of their last four Premier League wins (and four of their last five Premier League games), backing Draw-Liverpool at 4.84/1 looks a sensible play.
Given the recent results, a nervy start can't be ruled out and I'm happy to go a step further and play Bournemouth-Draw and Bournemouth-Liverpool for small stakes. The Cherries have the worst second half record in the division so even if they lead at the break, they'll still be unlikely to get anything from the game and they'll still be odds-on to get beat.
If the Reds are going to get back on track, it's highly likely that Mo Salah will find the net. He'll be playing in his 100th Premier League game for the Reds, in search of his 70th goal for the club and his eighth against Bournemouth. Odds of around even money in the To Score market will be well worth taking.