It is back to the drawing board for Bournemouth, who have little time to wallow with a quick turnaround in hosting Huddersfield Town on Tuesday at Dean Court.
POTENTIAL STARTING XIs
The Cherries (6-2-6) lost for the fourth time in as many matches to the “Big Six” this term after a 3-1 defeat Saturday at Manchester City. Yet Bournemouth could walk out of the Etihad with their heads high after taking the match to the reigning champions, fighting back to forge an equaliser through Callum Wilson before halftime.
They forced a champions-like response from City, who put Bournemouth in a vise from the second-half kickoff and took a deserved lead through Raheem Sterling just before the hour. City added a third, consigning the Cherries to a fourth loss on the bounce, but one they can take solace from going forward.
“There were elements of the game we’re really pleased with,” manager Eddie Howe said post-match. “We looked a threat from set pieces and on the counter attack, so that aspect is quite pleasing.
“It’s important that we’re not too down ahead of Huddersfield on Tuesday night, the last four games could have been very different for us so we will be confident going into the game.”
Howe will be able to restore Jefferson Lerma to his starting XI after the Colombia international served a one-match ban for yellow card accumulation. The Cherries’ boss is also likely to return to his customary 4-4-2 after going with a 3-4-3 at the back to try and slow down the City juggernaut.
Howe does have a worry with midfielder Dan Gosling, whom the manager said “didn’t feel right” in the warm-ups and was held out.
Bournemouth had gone 3-2-0 at home before back-to-back 2-1 defeats to Manchester United and Arsenal.
Huddersfield Town (2-4-8) had their best stretch of the season come to an end at home Saturday, losing 2-1 to Brighton and Hove Albion to end a three-match unbeaten run. Steve Mounie was given a straight red card by Michael Oliver for a studs-up rake of the shin of Yves Bissouma. There was no malicious intent, but it was a serious foul that warranted his ejection.
The match swung on Mounie’s dismissal, as the Terriers had taken a 1-0 lead 55 seconds into the contest on a header by Mathias Zanka, who rose highest to a poor clearance that floated into the penalty area. But Huddersfield allowed an equaliser in first-half stoppage time and Florin Andone’s goal on 69 minutes proved too much to overcome.
“If Steve Mounié’s situation is a red card, then the tackle from (Leon) Balogun in the second half has to be a red card too,” Huddersfield both David Wagner said. “We should have a penalty on Alex Pritchard. I’m proud with my players’ effort and attitude, but the game was settled by big decisions.”
The Terriers are just above the drop in 17th place on 10 points, one better than Burnley and Southampton and Fulham. On the bright side, Huddersfield have totaled five goals in their last four matches after netting just four in their first nine.
One problem, though, is that centre back Zanka and midfielder Aaron Mooy share the team lead with two goals. Four of Huddersfield’s goals have come from their defenders and none have been scored by their strikers. Without Mounie for this match, Laurent Depoitre is the most likely option for Wagner to lead the line.
Huddersfield have just four road wins in 25 matches since being promoted last season and are trying to win back-to-back road top-flight contests for the first time after a 2-0 victory at Molineux over Wolverhampton on Nov. 25.
If last season’s visit was any indication of Huddersfield’s chances, it will not happen in this contest. Bournemouth ran riot in a 4-0 victory as Wilson netted two goals five minutes apart in the first half and completed a hat trick on 84 minutes after Harry Arter bagged Bournemouth’s third.
Huddersfield, though, did win 4-1 at home in the most recent meeting as Mooy set up Mounie for a first-half brace.
Per Coral, Bournemouth are 8/11 favourites to regroup and claim three points for this game, while Huddersfield Town are 19/5 underdogs for that historic achievement of recording back-to-back road wins. There are 27/10 odds on the teams splitting the points.
There are 5/6 odds on both teams to score, slightly better than the 19/20 odds on at least one clean sheet being posted. There are 20/23 odds in both directions for the over/under on 2.5 goals being scored in the match.
For first-goal scorers, Wilson leads the list of options for Bournemouth at 7/2, followed by Junior King, Jermain Defoe and Junior Stanislas. Lys Mousset, the Cherries’ fourth striker, has 11/2 odds to make it 1-0 to the hosts, and David Brooks is a 13/2 listing. For Huddersfield Town, Depoitre unsurprisingly leads the line at 15/2, with Pritchard further back at 17/2. Adama Diakhaby is 9/1, and the Terriers’ other multi-goal scorer besides Zanka — Aaron Mooy — is 10/1 to make it 0-1.
Wilson has 11/8 odds to bag a goal for the second straight match, while King and Defoe are 7/4 picks to find the back of the net. Stanislas is slightly further back at 9/5, while Mousset is 2/1 and trailed by midfielders Brooks (12/5) and Ryan Fraser (5/2).
Depoitre fetches 13/5 odds on scoring over the course of the match, with Pritchard and Diakhaby joint-second for Huddersfield at 3/1. Mooy is just off that pace at 7/2 with Elias Kachunga and Isaac Mbenza.
This has the feel of an Occam’s Razor game in which the simplest prediction is for Bournemouth to regroup and wallop an offensively challenged Huddersfield Town. There is plenty of legitimacy to this argument, most notably that three of the Cherries’ four losses have come against the Big Six, and unlike their contest at Newcastle United in the midst of this stretch, they are home.
What will be interesting to learn is just how deep the Cherries are. They get Lerma back for this contest, and he will be eager to make amends for his absence against City considering how competitive they were without him in the first 45 minutes and how much Bournemouth missed him in the first quarter-hour of the second when City turned the screws on them.
Having Tyrone Mings get a surprise start with Bournemouth using a 3-4-3 (or 5-2-3 when considering City’s 70 percent possession) may have saved some legs in the back as Howe likely will switch back to Bournemouth’s customary 4-4-2. In the midfield, it would not be surprising to see Gosling on the bench if not starting, but this could also be a match for Stanislas or Jordon Ibe on the right flank. Up front, it is also possible for veteran forward Defoe to get a spot start to lead the line.
While Mounie did not find the back of the net in starting the previous four matches for Huddersfield, he was doing many things right because the Terriers had enjoyed their most productive offensive stretch of the season with five goals in those contests. He will be missed as Wagner ponders using Depoitre or Mbenza up front.
What will be interesting to see is where Huddersfield try to funnel Bournemouth when the Cherries have possession. They have capable players throughout the midfield who can tear apart midfields, and Bournemouth showed they can do it with width too with Wilson’s gorgeous finish on Francis’ cross versus City.
This is a vital match for Bournemouth’s psyche in the short-term and for their European ambitions in the long term. They have taken 20 of a possible 30 points against their peers in the “Other 14” — that is a pace for 52 points, which would have been good for eighth in 2017-18. And the law of averages says the Cherries will eventually nick a point and/or a win against the big boys.
PREDICTED FINAL SCORE: Bournemouth 1, Huddersfield Town 0.
OTHER EPL Match Day 15 Previews:
Watford (6-2-6) vs. Manchester City (12-2-0)
Burnley (2-3-9) vs. Liverpool (11-3-0)
Wolverhampton (4-4-6) vs. Chelsea (9-4-1)
Manchester United (6-4-4) vs. Arsenal (9-3-2)