2018-19 EPL Match Day 17 Preview — Wolverhampton (6-4-6) vs. Bournemouth (7-2-7)

A pair of sides looking to consolidate their top-half status collide at Molineux on Saturday when Wolverhampton host Bournemouth.

POTENTIAL STARTING XIs

Promoted Wolves (6-4-6) have clawed their way into 10th place in the table on the strength of back-to-back 2-1 wins, the more recent one coming at St James’ Park versus Newcastle United last weekend.

Playing with a man advantage from the 57th minute, Wolverhampton left it late to reap the dividends of numerical superiority. Matt Doherty’s close-range header on the save of a shot by Diogo Jota in the fourth minute of stoppage time proved to be the match-winner.

“It was good. It is probably the best way to win,” defender Ryan Bennett told the club’s official website. “You don’t want to win like that, but when you get that feeling of scoring so late it’s the best feeling you can have in football.”

Jota, who scored Wolves’ first goal on 17 minutes and for the second straight match, was a menace throughout the match and the reason Newcastle were reduced to 10 men in the second half. He dispossessed DeAndre Yedlin, forcing the American international to foul him from behind on a clear goal-scoring opportunity.

Ireland international Doherty has two goals in Wolves’ last three matches, while centre-forward Raul Jimenez, who was denied by the crossbar in the second half versus Newcastle, has two goals and an assist in his last six contests.

There has been the talk Wolves will make his loan from Benfica permanent this summer at a reported price tag of £30 million, but the Mexico international is more concerned with the present and keeping Wolves up.

“It’s too early. I have to do the things I’m doing, help the team to get good results,” Jimenez told the Express & Star. “At the end of the season we’ll see what happens. I try to play well and help the team, it’s going well for me and also the team.

“It’s exciting for me, I’m doing things well and that’s the reason I’m an important part of the team. I’ll try and keep doing the same things to help us keep winning.”

While Wolves manager Nuno Espirito Santo has no injury or personnel concerns ahead of this match as Wolverhampton seek three consecutive victories for the first time in the Premier League, two of his back three are walking a very fine line. Both Bennett and centre back Connor Coady have four yellow cards, which means any booking for either player over their next three contests will result in a one-match ban.

Jota is in a similar predicament as all three picked up their fourth cautions in the win over Newcastle. Midfielder Ruben Neves has already served a one-match ban for five yellow cards.

Bournemouth (7-2-7) are one point better than Wolverhampton and eighth in the table on 23 points, but their inability to stand up to the Big Six again cost them a chance at making some headway on potential European play next season.

The Cherries seemed content to try and nick a point off Liverpool without injured striker Callum Wilson, but those plans came undone by Mo Salah in the 25th minute as his controversial goal – to Cherries boss Eddie Howe at least – opened the floodgates that also included an own goal by defender Steve Cook.

“It was a difficult match and a tough score-line to take,” Howe admitted to the club”s official website. “The first goal had a massive bearing on the game because I thought our shape had been good and Liverpool hadn’t opened us up at that point. The first goal shouldn’t have stood.”

Howe’s protestations aside, the loss drew another red line under Bournemouth’s inability to kick on to that next gear. The Cherries are 0-0-5 against the Big Six – they face Tottenham Hotspur on Boxing Day – and have been outscored 13-3 in those contests.

Having Wilson available in this contest will be vital considering the forward has factored on eight of Bournemouth’s last 11 goals in league play via scoring or assisting. His eight goals in league play are tied for fourth and two behind leader Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang of Arsenal.

Bournemouth will be without injured midfielders Lewis Cook and Dan Gosling, while left back Adam Smith is a long-term injury absence following knee surgery last month.

This is the first top-flight matchup between the sides, who have not met since Bournemouth did the double in the Championship in 2014-15 with a pair of 2-1 victories. The Cherries are 6-2-3 all-time against Wolverhampton and unbeaten in the last five (3-2-0) since a 3-1 defeat at Molineux in 1989 while in Division Two.

PUNTERS’ NOTES

Per Bet365, Wolves are solid 19/20 favourites to record their unprecedented third consecutive Premier League victory, while Bournemouth are 10/3 underdogs to snap out of their recent funk and post a fourth road win this term. The odds of the teams sharing the points checks in at 13/5.

Oddsmakers are not sure if the offences will stick or twist in this contest as there are 10/11 odds on both sides of the 2.5-goal threshold. There is more expectation both teams will score at 3/4 odds compared to even money for at least one side posting a clean sheet.

The home side has the top three options for opening the scoring, with Jimenez the frontrunner at 9/2, ahead of Wolves reserve striker Leo Bonatini (5/1) and Jota (11/2). Wilson headlines the Bournemouth list at 6/1, with pair of Wolves wingers — Helder Costa and Ivan Cavaleiro both right on his heels at 13/2. Veteran Cherries striker Jermain Defoe is a 7/1 pick to make it 0-1, while Wolves speedster Adama Traore is a 15/2 option.

Jimenez also leads the line for any-time goal-scorers at 11/8, followed by Bonatini (6/4) and Jota (7/4). Wilson is a 15/8 option for the Cherries, with Cavaleiro and Costa again in tandem — this time at 21/10. Defoe (9/4) and fellow Bournemouth forward Joshua King (11/4) bracket Traore (12/5), while Wolves starlet Morgan Gibbs-White is also an 11/4 option.

PREDICTION

Bournemouth have been the epitome of a flat-track bully — they are a minus-10 with three goals scored in five matches against the Big Six but a plus-9 with a whopping 22 goals in their 11 matches against the rest of the Premier League. Yet this is a match that could play into Wolverhampton’s wheelhouse given the technical ability of the Cherries that will be more about a football matchup than the blood-and-thunder physical sides sometimes prefer.

To that end, Wilson’s availability is a huge question mark dangling over the Cherries at the moment. He has been one of the best strikers in the top flight this term, period, showing as much playmaking and interplay with his attacking midfielders as he has finishing. His nine goals in 17 matches across all competitions recalls his rate of 23 in 50 for Coventry City in 2013-14 — the production rate that resulted in him being Bournemouth’s record signing.

He will have his hands full with Wolves’ back three, but Wilson will also have the support of a Bournemouth midfield that can push and pull their Wolves’ counterparts through the middle. While Wolverhampton have had the luck of the green to a degree in their last two wins, their work rate cannot be questioned as they have taken the fight to teams and shown an ability to battle back after taking a punch.

This match has the feel of a late Wolves goal somehow factoring into this match, whether it results in a draw or a win for the hosts at Molineux is the question. The Cherries have failed to score in only two of their eight league road matches — their clunker at Burnley and at a Chelsea team who limited Howe’s side to 32 percent possession. Wolverhampton will cede more than that, and the result should be a finely balanced match decided late.

PREDICTION: Wolverhampton 2, Bournemouth 2.

OTHER EPL MATCH DAY 17 PREVIEWS:

Huddersfield Town (2-4-10) vs. Newcastle United (3-4-9)
Tottenham Hotspur (12-0-4) vs. Burnley (3-3-10)
Manchester City (13-2-1) vs. Everton (6-6-4)
Liverpool (13-3-0) vs. Manchester United (7-5-4)

2018-19 EPL Match Day 14 Preview — Manchester City (11-2-0) vs. Bournemouth (6-2-5)

There are many ways to describe Manchester City in glowing terms, but grit can now be added to that list of attributes heading into Saturday’s match at the Etihad versus Bournemouth.

POTENTIAL STARTING XIs

The reigning Premier League champions have trailed for 92 of a possible 1,800 minutes across all competitions this season, and only Wolverhampton have enjoyed a lead over Manchester City in league play – for all of 12 minutes. Yet for the second time in Champions League group play, Lyon gave Pep Guardiola’s team fits all over the pitch and twice grabbed leads through Maxwel Cornet.

The Citizens (11-2-0), though, showed they can take a punch and give one back as they equalised both times nearly straightaway in Tuesday’s 2-2 draw at the French side that secured a spot in the knockout round for the sixth straight year. Aymeric Laporte drew City level seven minutes after Cornet opened the scoring in the 55th, and Sergio Aguero nodded home Riyad Mahrez’s corner kick on 83 minutes, two after Cornet completed his brace.

“We are into the last 16,” Guardiola told City’s official website. “It’s so important at this time to be in the last 16. When you play against Lyon, it’s complicated because of how good they are. The level was quite similar across all the group that’s why starting with a 2-1 defeat at home to Lyon, we have made an excellent recovery in the past four games.

“Always you think ‘how will we react in that situation?’ (going behind) and always we have shown a huge personality.”

Manchester City will finish atop Group F if they get at least a draw in their final group game at home versus last-place Hoffenheim in a fortnight.

Last weekend’s 4-0 thrashing of West Ham United started a stretch in which City will play two matches per week over the next six weeks. That puts a premium on squad rotation, and even with City’s bottomless pockets to spend money, there are still personnel shortages.

Kevin DeBruyne and Benjamin Mendy are long-term absences due to injuries, while Bernardo Silva and Ilkay Gundogan are dealing with knocks and questionable for this match.

The most important spot, though, may be up front as Aguero has been healthy all season and already has 10 goals in 16 matches in all competitions after totaling 30 in 39 in an injury-plagued 2017-18. Gabriel Jesus, nursing a groin injury, could be one match away from getting a start after playing just nine minutes in the previous three matches following his hat trick against Shakhtar Donetsk on Nov. 7.

City have a perfect 100 percent record at the Etihad in league play, winning seven matches by a combined 27-4 scoreline while scoring at least two goals in every contest.

For Bournemouth (6-2-5), this is another chance for them to prove they are something more than a flat-track bully of the “Other 14” while being bullied by the “Big Six.” The Cherries fell to 0-0-3 against the perennials this term and have lost three on the spin following a 2-1 defeat at home to Arsenal last weekend.

An own goal by Jefferson Lerma on the half-hour put Bournemouth in an early hole, and after Joshua King pulled the Cherries level, Eddie Howe’s team conceded midway through the second half. Bournemouth sorely missed the calming presence of left back Adam Smith, who missed his first match with a knee injury expected to sideline him at least three months.

“Adam has been excellent over a long period of time,” Howe told the Bournemouth Echo. “He has great energy about him and enthusiasm for the game. He is an excellent trainer and very popular in the dressing room.

“It is a big miss for us. His versatility has been key in recent seasons. He has played in a number of positions and wherever he has played, he has performed at a high level.”

Howe must make at least one change for this match as Lerma also picked up his fifth yellow card of the season against Arsenal, triggering a one-match ban. Lewis Cook looks to be the most likely replacement for the Colombia international, but the Cherries could opt for a 3-4-3 formation in contrast to their usual 4-4-2 set-up to prevent City from overrunning the midfield.

Bournemouth have been a Jekyll-and-Hyde outfit outside Dean Court this season, outscoring teams 9-1 in victories at West Ham United, Watford, and Fulham while being outscored 8-1 in defeats to Chelsea, Burnley, and Newcastle United.

The Citizens have won all six matches between the teams since Bournemouth earned their initial promotion to the top flight for the 2015-16 season. All three games at the Etihad have been one-way affairs as City have smashed 13 by Bournemouth with only one in reply.

PUNTERS’ NOTES

Per Bet365, City are 1/8 favourites to maintain their 100 percent record at the Etihad in league play, and the odds of the Cherries even nicking a point are 9/1. For those who believe in the fairy-tale ending of Bournemouth getting their first Premier League win over City, the odds are 25/1.

For the 2.5 goals over/under, the over has 1/4 odds while the under is 3/1.

Aguero leads the parade of City players for first-goal odds at 9/4, followed by Jesus (10/3) and Mahrez (4/1). Raheem Sterling, who has been a bogeyman for Bournemouth with nine goals and two assists during a six-match goal-scoring run against them, offers 9/2 odds to make it 1-0 for the hosts. Leroy Sane (11/2), David Silva (15/2) and Phil Foden (20/1) round out the Citizens’ option before getting to Bournemouth’s Callum Wilson at 14/1.

Aguero, Jesus, Mahrez and Sterling all are better than even money to score during the 90 minutes, ranging from Aguero’s 4/11 to Sterling’s 5/6. David Silva, who had a four-goal goal-scoring streak snapped at Lyon, has 8/5 odds. Wilson is again the top pick for the Cherries at 10/3, with veteran understudy Jermain Defoe (15/4) edging out Joshua King (5/1) for second.

PREDICTION

There are a few things that would not be surprising about this match for Manchester City. It would not be surprising if Vincent Kompany or Nicolas Otamendi get the start for John Stones in central defence, and even with that slight groin injury, Jesus could lead the line in this match.

It would also not be surprising for City to take about 15 minutes to shift through their gears after being pushed fairly hard by Lyon. After their first match versus the French side, City did not get their first goal against Cardiff City until 32 minutes had elapsed. After that, the floodgates opened and the Citizens scored four more.

With all the scrutiny that comes with City, perhaps the most impressive statistic is that they have trailed for only 12 minutes in league play, and it can be argued that goal Wolverhampton scored would have been overturned had VAR been in existence. City are 23-2-1 at the Etihad in league play since the start of last term, and the final 21 minutes they trailed in their eventual 3-2 loss to Manchester United are the lone minutes they have spent trailing in their last 18 matches at home.

For Bournemouth, the 0-0-3 record against the Big Six this season obscures the fact Eddie Howe’s team have been competitive in those matches and arguably deserved a point against United. Yet until the Cherries make that actual breakthrough — especially in the case against City as they have been little more than a speed bump to them at the Etihad — the perception of “good story and decent side” is going to persist regardless of their ambitions.

They have had their chances in each of these three big matches, but City are clearly operating on a different level than any of them. Expect that to continue as the Citizens stay perfect at the Etihad and against Bournemouth.

PREDICTED FINAL SCORE: Manchester City 4, Bournemouth 0.

OTHER EPL MATCH DAY 14 PREVIEWS:

Southampton (1-5-7) vs. Manchester United (6-3-4)
Chelsea (8-4-1) vs. Fulham (2-2-9)
Arsenal (7-3-2) vs. Tottenham Hotspur (10-0-3)
Liverpool (10-3-0) vs. Everton (6-4-3)

2018-19 EPL Match Day 13 Preview — Bournemouth (6-2-4) vs. Arsenal (7-3-2)

Arsenal look to get back to the business of winning at Dean Court on Sunday when they face a Bournemouth side eager to prove they are worthy of their current top-six spot in the table.

POTENTIAL STARTING XIs

The Gunners (6-4-2) are unbeaten in their last 16 matches across all competitions after Unai Emery’s tenure began with losses to Manchester City and Chelsea. But with three successive draws and four in the last five contests overall, Emery is eager to hit the ground running after the international break as Arsenal seek a top-four finish to get back to the Champions League for the first time in three seasons.

“The Premier League is our priority, and our objective in terms of the table is to finish in the top four,” Emery said. “The club wants to return to Europe’s top club competition which is the Champions League, and we have two opportunities by which to do that – one is the Premier League, and the other is the Europa League, because obviously you qualify by winning that competition. Both are very difficult but we want to ensure we perform the best we can on both fronts.”

Emery was effusive in his praise of Sunday’s opponents, with Bournemouth (6-2-4) the best of three teams on 20 points directly below the Gunners as they lead both Watford and Manchester United on goal difference.

“I think they are a good team, a young coach but a very good coach with his small experience but very big experience,” he explained. “I know Bournemouth and they are a very prepared team with tactically good movement on the pitch and with a big intensity with each player and when they are playing there, we know it is very difficult.”

Arsenal are still somewhat beat up despite the international break. Emery is on his third left back, Said Kolasniac, as Nacho Monreal remains sidelined and Stephan Lichtsteiner is questionable with a hamstring injury. Danny Welbeck is a long-term absentee with an ankle injury, but right back Laurent Koscielny is moving closer to his first match action since last spring when he ruptured his Achilles in their second-leg Europa League semifinal tie versus Atletico Madrid.

Back on the pitch, Arsenal are looking to put together a complete opening 45 minutes in league play. In an odd statistical quirk, the Gunners have yet to hold a lead at the interval in Premier League action.

“We can speak here about the statistics a lot of time, for a long time. We are scoring a lot, it’s good? Yes, it’s perfect. 26 goals is a very big statistic for goals, but also, we have received 15 goals. It is not good. We are playing sometimes with a very good possession. It’s good, yes?

“But sometimes, we are playing with a very good possession, for example against Wolverhampton, but we didn’t win. We need more, but we need more in some things being different tactically, individually, in the spirit, in the mentality.”

The Cherries have another chance to stamp their legitimacy against a Big Six opponent, having come up short at Chelsea, and more recently against Manchester United at home. The latter defeat was particularly frustrating – Bournemouth nearly ran United off the pitch in the first 45 minutes only to concede twice in the second 45 and allowed the winner in stoppage time.

The hangover from that loss continued at St James’ Park before the international break as they were unable to overcome a pair of goals by Salomon Rondon in a 2-1 loss to a struggling Newcastle United. Jefferson Lerma pulled one back for Bournemouth, but it was not enough to prevent a second straight loss.

One reason for the mini-slump has been the absence of striker Joshua King, who has missed the last three matches with an ankle injury. The Norway international has four goals, but he is part of Eddie Howe’s full-strength 4-4-2 set-up and emerged as the perfect foil striker for the pacy Callum Wilson.

“He has improved. He trained with the group and we will be excited if he is fit,” Howe told the Bournemouth Echo about King and the team in general. “We’re a lot better than we had been after the Newcastle game where we had a number of players who had carried knocks and injuries.

“The break allowed us to nurse a couple to somewhere near full fitness. We will still make a few late checks going into the game but we are in a lot better shape.”

Wilson has a team-high seven goals in all competitions for Bournemouth, while Ryan Fraser has a Premier League-leading six assists and seven overall.

Howe will be forced into one change to his starting XI as Adam Smith suffered a knee injury against Newcastle and is expected to be sidelined at least three months. Charlie Daniels is expected to slot in at left back for the Cherries, and it should be a seamless transition considering he started 105 of Bournemouth’s 114 Premier League games the last three seasons and has been in the first XI four times this term.

After taking just one point in their first five Premier League matches versus Arsenal, Bournemouth finally broke through in the most recent meeting with a 2-1 win at home. Wilson scored an equaliser on 70 minutes to cancel out Hector Bellerin’s early second-half goal and then turned playmaker for Jordon Ibe’s match-winner in the 74th minute.

PUNTERS’ NOTES

Per Ladbrokes, Arsenal are even-money favourites to return to London with all three points, with Bournemouth getting 23/10 odds to pull off an upset and take sole possession of sixth. The longshot of the outcomes is the teams splitting the points at 11/4.

The Gunners are a 33/20 pick to win with more than 2.5 goals scored, while the host Cherries offer a 17/5 return to win with that goal count. A draw with less than 2.5 goals has 5/1 odds, while a 0-1 or 0-2 scoreline is just off that at 11/2. A draw of 2-2 or higher has 7/1 odds, while little faith is offered for a Bournemouth victory and a 1-0 or 2-0 final at 9/1.

Arsenal strikers Alexander Lacazette and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang lead the way for first-goal picks at 4/1 and 9/2. respectively. Wilson and Gunners reserve Eddie Nketiah are a joint third at 5/1, while the Cherries also have the next two in veteran Jermain Defoe (13/2) and King (7/1).

The Gunners duo are also the top two on the toteboard for scoring over the course of 90 minutes, with Lacazette at 6/5 and Aubameyang at 13/10. Wilson and Nketiah are again paired together, this time at 6/4, and Defoe gets some slight separation from his teammate at 15/8, with King and Henrikh Mkhitaryan at 21/10.

PREDICTION

Bournemouth showed they were capable of taking on one of the Big Six for 45 minutes, the question now is can they sustain it for a full 90? What makes this match important for Bournemouth to at least take one point is Manchester United appear (key word: appear) to be experiencing something more than a brief malaise, which puts a top-six finish and a spot in Europe in play.

Getting King back for this match will be huge, especially against an Arsenal back line Emery is still piecing together match to match. Additionally, the Gunners’ bizarre first-half issues (struggles feels too strong a word considering they have trailed just twice after 45 minutes despite not leading in any of those 12 matches) are tailor-made for Howe’s team to try and put together a 45 minutes like they did against United when they bloodied their nose with that deserved goal.

Yet Bournemouth are still fragile defensively, and while Daniels has been there and done that as he replaces Smith, Arsenal’s right side with Alex Iwobi or Mkhitaryan will prove troublesome. Two of the Cherries’ three clean sheets in league play have come against the more challenged offensive sides in Cardiff City and Southampton. This is a match where Begovic must stand up and be counted.

PREDICTED FINAL SCORE: Bournemouth 2, Arsenal 2.

OTHER EPL MATCH DAY 13 PREVIEWS:

West Ham United (3-3-6) vs. Manchester City (10-2-0)
Tottenham Hotspur (9-0-3) vs. Chelsea (8-4-0)
Fulham (1-2-9) vs. Southampton (1-5-6)
Watford (6-2-4) vs. Liverpool (9-3-0)

2018-19 EPL Match Day 11 Preview — Bournemouth (6-2-2) vs. Manchester United (5-2-3)

Having once more stepped away from a cliff of despair and discontent, Manchester United again try to jump-start their season Saturday at Dean Court against a Bournemouth side who are eager to find out if they can indeed run with the big boys this term.

POTENTIAL STARTING XIs

United (5-2-3) are in eighth place on 17 points, already nine points back of eternal rivals and reigning champions Manchester City – whom they face at the Etihad next weekend in the first Manchester derby of the season. This match almost has the feel of a trap game for Jose Mourinho’s side, who must also travel to Juventus for a Champions League match that could put their hopes of advancing in peril with a second loss to the Italian side.

As they did previously at Watford and versus Newcastle United, Manchester United showed resiliency in not letting the season go off the rails, this time seeing off in-form Everton 2-1 at Old Trafford last weekend. Paul Pogba alertly knocked home the rebound of his missed penalty after it was stopped by Jordan Pickford, and Anthony Martial continued his scintillating form with his fourth goal in four matches across all competitions.

Despite a non-sensical challenge by Chris Smalling that gifted the Toffees a penalty in the final quarter-hour, United saw the match out without much drama. Whether this was the match that was Martial’s coming-out party – the France international played a vibrant two-way game and his goal was a low, curling beauty across Pickford and off the right post – is yet to be determined, but Mourinho seemed convinced the 22-year-old grasps what he wants.

“He took quite a long time to understand what we want,” Mourinho told The Times. “He took quite a long time for his brain and body to be ready for how we want him to play. His performance without the goal would be a good performance. You cannot score every time you play, where you don’t assist but you have a certain balance. That is the way I think it is going now.”

The overall performance of United, who looked far more aggressive in intent offensively has created a dilemma of sorts for Mourinho. He dropped Romelu Lukaku from the starting XI, and missing a sitter in the final 25 minutes extended the Belgium international’s goal-scoring drought to nine matches in all competitions. But with Marcus Rashford leading the line and Juan Mata on the wing, there was far more creativity throughout the width of the final third as opposed to previously when United may have focused too much on getting the ball to Lukaku in the penalty area.

“I think when he scores one goal, life will change for him,” Mourinho told MUTV. “At the moment, I think he’s under that pressure that normally the strikers put on themselves, plus the press obviously. So it’s not an easy life for strikers when they don’t score goals.”

Martial’s fine run of form has also made a spectator of Alexis Sanchez, who was an unused sub versus Everton. The Chile international has logged just five minutes in United’s last three matches after bagging the late winner versus Newcastle for his only goal of the season.

While it can be discussed the aura that normally surrounds Manchester United has been punctured, it can also be argued Bournemouth’s current form may be strong enough to take on any Premier League side regardless of reputation.

“There is certainly no fear factor. The form book would say we might be favourites going into the game,” midfielder Simon Francis told The Mirror. “I don’t think we see it as a free hit any more, these kinds of games, because we believe we can beat them.

“These games are the ones we can grab by the scruff of the neck and take to Man United. The lads will be raring to go, are looking forward to every Premier League game and why not? We are on good form.”

The Cherries (6-2-2) are sixth in the table, just two points behind fourth-place Arsenal and are unbeaten in eight matches (6-2-0) across all competitions at home after a 2-1 victory over Championship side Norwich City on Tuesday to reach the quarterfinals of the Carabao Cup opposite Chelsea.

Eddie Howe’s men may have been caught looking ahead to this game, but he also overturned eight of his starting XI that gave Fulham an impressive 3-0 thrashing at Craven Cottage last weekend. Defender Steve Cook snapped a 1-1 tie in the 72nd minute as the Cherries suffered most of the match against a determined Canaries side that had deservedly pulled level two minutes before Cook’s marker.

“We looked disjointed, maybe due to players coming in who haven’t had enough games, but we lacked a sharpness and fluency that’s usually there,” Howe noted to the club’s official website. “Overall, it was a disappointing performance but we withstood the pressure and found a way to win. It’s great to be in the next round.”

This is only the second of the “Big Six” squads Bournemouth have faced this season, with the lone result thus far a 2-0 loss at Chelsea. The Cherries went 2-0-10 in such matches last season, and if they are to harbour any hopes of European play next season, they need results in such high-stakes contests.

Striker Joshua King will likely be a late decision for Howe due to an ankle injury that sidelined him for the Fulham match. The Norway international has four goals, tying him for second with Ryan Fraser. Callum Wilson has a team-leading six markers for Bournemouth, who have 19 goals through 10 league matches after netting 45 last term.

United did the double last season, recording clean sheets in both games and emerging with a 1-0 victory at Dean Court on a goal by Lukaku in the 25th minute. Manchester United are unbeaten in their last five versus Bournemouth in league play (4-1-0) since the Cherries recorded a famous 2-1 upset in their first Premier League season in 2015.

PUNTERS’ NOTES

Per Ladbrokes, United are still clear favourites to take home all three points at 21/20 odds, with Bournemouth listed at 12/5 to do likewise and stay unbeaten at home. The odds of the teams splitting the points are 5/2. The most expected outcome is a United win with more than 2.5 goals (19/10), though the same outcome for Bournemouth at 4/1 rates higher than a 0-1 or 0-2 scoreline for United (9/2). A draw with under 2.5 goals also offers 4/1 odds, while a Cherries victory by a 1-0 or 2-0 count is 17/2.

Rashford and Lukaku are joint top-options for the match’s first goal-scorer at 5/1, with Martial right behind them at 11/2. Wilson is Bournemouth’s top pick to make it 1-0 for the hosts, also at 1-0, while Sanchez curiously is high on the board at 13/2. Pogba and King are both 7/1, bracketing veteran Cherries striker Jermain Defoe at 13/2.

Lukaku and Rashford also lead the line for any-time goal-scorers with 8/5 odds, again narrowly edging out Martial (7/4). Wilson again gets top billing for the home side at 19/10 odds to score over the 90 minutes, with King 23/10 and both Pogba and Defoe at 11/5. Lurking at 3/1 is Bournemouth’s Brooks, with Fraser getting 10/3 odds to put one past De Gea.

PREDICTION

Note: The inclusion of Rojo is a far-flung guess because no one has been head and shoulders above the rest at right back for Manchester United, and the belief is he cannot be any worse than Ashley Young, Antonio Valencia or anyone else Mourinho can throw back there.

Is this the Manchester United we have been waiting for all season? It has been a season of fits and starts for Mourinho’s men. Every match there is the expectation for them to kick on, they sputter. Every match in which the first few paragraphs of the obituary are ready to be published, they respond with a performance convincing enough to remind us they are Manchester United.

That is what makes this match so interesting. It is the middle of a difficult five-game gauntlet for United that concludes next Sunday across town at the Etihad. They are in no position to rotate personnel to set up for any of these three matches — this one, at Juventus, at City — over the next eight days to maximise the potential of winning three points in any of them.

With Lukaku expected to be returned to centre forward at the expense of Rashford is a curious decision, but also one that makes sense given neither distinguished themselves versus Everton, and Mourinho needs the Belgium to score a goal more heading into next week than he does young Rashford. Pogba has played better of late — penalty approach notwithstanding — and in Mata having a more advanced position, the France international now has a more-defined role on the pitch, something that goes further for him than a defined position.

In some ways, it was gratifying to see Francis’ quote in The Mirror because while United are a solid side, they are not the world-beaters that currently only Manchester City and Liverpool can claim to be. The previous opponents United had when there was a chance to kick them while they were down let them off the hook — more so Watford than Everton, as the latter simply failed to take advantage of gilt-edged chances they created while the former played in awe of the opponents’ shirt.

The good news is that Bournemouth did not do that at Chelsea in September when they suffered a 2-0 loss. That match was scoreless for 72 minutes before the Pensioners broke through, and they added an insurance tally five minutes from time. The Cherries have the form in which they should feel emboldened to take the fight to United at home. If they can flow through the midfield and make Nemanja Matic uncomfortable, this is a game that could be theirs for the taking.

PREDICTED FINAL SCORE: Bournemouth 1, Manchester United 1.

OTHER MATCH DAY 11 PREVIEWS:

Arsenal (7-1-2) vs. Liverpool (8-2-0)
Wolverhampton (4-3-3) vs. Tottenham Hotspur (7-0-3)
Newcastle United (0-3-7) vs. Watford (6-1-3)
Chelsea (7-3-0) vs. Crystal Palace (2-2-6)

2018-19 EPL Match Day 8 Preview — Watford (4-1-2) vs. Bournemouth (4-1-2)

They have been the surprise packages of the early part of the season, but Watford are in desperate need of a victory Saturday to raise their spirits ahead of the international break as they host a Bournemouth side determined to reverse their flagging road form.

POTENTIAL STARTING XIs

The first international break came at the worst possible time for Watford (4-1-2), who started the season with the maximum 12 points and had won their first five matches overall. Heading into this recess, the Hornets may need the break more than anyone as they are winless in their last four (0-2-2) in all competitions.

Javi Gracia could only lament the rotten luck his side had in the last two matches — crashing out of the Carabao Cup on penalties versus Tottenham Hotspur and coming undone late in their loss at Arsenal last weekend.

Watford were the better team and the more aggressive team for long stretches at the Emirates, failing to make that final connection and sternly testing Gunners keeper Bernd Leno. Isaac Success hit the woodwork in the 75th minute, and it appeared at worst Watford would leave north London with one point. But an own goal by Craig Cathcart six minutes later and a breakdown two minutes after that left a shellshocked Watford on the wrong end of a 2-0 scoreline.

“What can I say, I am very upset for my players because I think they deserved more, a better result,” Gracia told Watford’s official website. “We had a very good performance, with more shots, more on target, with a lot of clear chances to score. But if you don’t score, you can lose.

“We deserved more.”

Gracia was forced into his first lineup change of the season last weekend when right back Daryl Janmaat could not go due to a knee injury that will sideline him for at least another month. Marc Navarro turned in a credible first start, but he is also unavailable due to injury, forcing Gracia to look further down the bench to either Kiko Femenia or Adrian Mariappa.

“Adrian is a player who can play in different defensive positions,” Gracia said. “He is an option to play, the same as Kiko and Cathcart as well.”

Up front, attacking midfielder Gerard Deulofeu could be in line to make his season debut for the Hornets, having fully recovered from a foot injury suffered late last term.

Bournemouth (4-1-2) are seventh in the table, trailing Watford on goal difference largely because they were run out of both Chelsea and Burnley by a combined 6-0 scoreline. The Cherries, though, have left it late in their last two contests – getting a stoppage-time goal by Callum Wilson to advance in the Carabao Cup and an 87th-minute penalty by Junior Stanislas for the winning margin in a 2-1 victory over Crystal Palace last weekend.

“We’re confident that we have a goal in us at any time, and match winners in the team who can turn a tight game in our favour,” Cherries boss Eddie Howe said post-match. “The most important thing for me is that the spirit and togetherness in the group is as strong as it’s ever been which is a huge quality to have.”

That offence has been a welcome sight considering Bournemouth totaled just 45 goals last season. They already have 12 through the first seven league matches this term, and more importantly, eight different players have found the back of the net. Stanislas has scored in the last two matches while Wilson has factored on seven goals – scoring three and assisting on four – in all competitions thus far.

Howe was especially pleased David Brooks broke his duck with his well-taken goal in the fifth minute. The boss praised the Wales international for his perseverance, noting he “has got outstanding technical qualities, and I believe he’s a goal-scorer in waiting. He gets in good positions, his finishing is improving, and his first goal here was a big moment for him. It was an excellent finish after a really good team move.”

The challenge is carrying that over outside Dean Court and playing similar to their road opener – a 2-1 victory at then-struggling West Ham – compared to their last two contests in which they were carved open and had a combined six shots on target in the defeats to Chelsea and Burnley.

Watford took four of six points from the two matches last term, but Bournemouth stole a last-gasp 2-2 draw at Vicarage Road on a stoppage-time goal by Jermain Defoe. Femenia and Joshua King traded first-half goals before Roberto Pereyra staked the Hornets to a 2-1 lead four minutes after the restart.

Watford’s 2-0 victory at Bournemouth last season is the only Premier League match of six between the clubs that did not end in a draw.

PUNTERS’ NOTES

Per Ladbrokes, Watford are tipped to get back to winning, entering this contest as 21/20 favourites. The Cherries are 12/5 underdogs to return to Bournemouth with three points, slightly better than the 5/2 odds on the sides sharing the points.

A Hornets victory with more than 2.5 goals leads the options at 21/10, while a high-scoring Bournemouth win and low-scoring Watford victory share 21/5 odds. Those are slightly longer odds than a 0-0 or 1-1 draw, which checks in at 18/5. A 1-0 or 2-0 victory for Bournemouth gets a 7/1 return, with the high-scoring draw further back at 9/1.

Watford’s striker tandem of Troy Deeney and Andre Gray are joint-favourites to score the first goal of the match at 11/2, with Bournemouth’s Wilson and Watford reserve forward Success both at 6/1. Oddsmakers also think Deulofeu will see the pitch at some point, evidenced by offering him at 7/1 odds for the first goal. Wilson’s strike partner King is further back at 8/1, behind teammate and third forward Jermaine Defoe.

Gray and Deeney have 9/5 odds to score during the match, with Success vaulting into third at 19/10. Wilson, Defoe and King are stepladder options for Bournemouth at 2/1, 23/10 and 5/2, respectively, with Watford’s Stefano Okaka and Roberto Pereyra mixed in at 2/1 and 12/5.

PREDICTION

For those who like scrap and graft, this is the match for you. That’s not to say Watford and Bournemouth are not aesthetically pleasing, because both are absolutely capable of beautiful football. But with Watford’s track record of fizzling after sizzling starts, this has to be a match where a draw is the worst possible result they take into the international break.

It again starts on the left for Watford, going from Jose Holebas to Pereyra to help create chances for Deeney and Gray. Pereyra, though, has gone four league matches without a goal and Holebas three without an assist as some opponents have wised up to Watford’s ways. How Gracia addresses the hole at right back will be of interest, especially with the “Pocket Scot” Ryan Fraser marauding down the left for the Cherries.

With Bournemouth confident following late back-to-back wins coupled with Watford’s last two results going against them late, there is a bit of danger here for the hosts. The Cherries, though, have led for just 24 minutes in their three road matches — and those came after their quick-strike 1-2 punch at West Ham back in August.

Whoever scores first in this game is likely to walk away with at least one point, and the sooner it happens in the match, the more pressure the other will be under. Look for Watford to get it right and head into the break on a much-needed positive note.

PREDICTED FINAL SCORE: WATFORD 1, Bournemouth 0.

OTHER MATCH DAY 8 PREVIEWS:

Leicester City (4-0-3) vs. Everton (2-3-2)
Manchester United (3-1-3) vs. Newcastle United (0-2-5)
Fulham (1-2-4) vs. Arsenal (5-0-2)
Liverpool (6-1-0) vs. Manchester City (6-1-0)

2018-19 EPL Match Day 6 Preview — Burnley (0-1-4) vs. Bournemouth (3-1-1)

Burnley again look to find the cure for their Europa League hangover Saturday when they host in-form Bournemouth trying to avoid a fifth loss on the trot.

POTENTIAL STARTING XIs

The Clarets (0-1-4) are at the foot of the Premier League table entering this weekend’s matches, trailing Newcastle United on goal difference while joining Cardiff City and Huddersfield Town as the top flight’s only sides without a win. While much was made of Burnley’s first European adventure in a half-century as they got to the brink of the Europa League group stages, Sean Dyche’s side has yet to pull out of what he described as a “fog” mentally.

“I think it’s a mentality thing. Some of it can be worked at on the training ground of course, but I call it bottoming out; a collective moment when a group of players bottom out,” Dyche explained to the club’s official website after their 1-0 loss at Wolverhampton last weekend.

“When we got into the Europa League there was this immediate noise about it being tough. People ramp it up and say ‘there you are, I told you.’

“Well, we have to find a way through that and I remind them they are roughly the same group of players who finished seventh last season. Players will get back to their form and confidence, but you have to earn that right.”

The goal that consigned Burnley to defeat was the type of goal they conceded so rarely last term – Wolverhampton cycled the ball on the right side before midfielder Johan Berg Gudmundsson failed to track Matt Doherty’s run, and that started a chain of rotational reactions one-half step late as Raul Jimenez beat Joe Hart inside the left post on 61 minutes.

The loss overshadowed a strong effort by Hart, who made six saves as Wolves peppered Burnley’s goal with 30 shots. The former England No. 1 thinks the team needs a coming together to avoid the first five-match losing streak at the Premier League level in club history.

“The past is the past for everyone, including myself and we need to start living in the now with this squad,” Hart said. “We’ve got to be real with each other, real with the manager and we move forward. We’ve got good quality, good desire and good team spirit and we have to start translating that.”

Burnley have gone 229 minutes without a goal in league play since Jack Tarkowski netted late in the first half of their 4-2 defeat at Fulham on Aug. 26. Midfielder Steven Defour could be among the reserves for this match after playing 60 minutes midweek for the Under-23 side in his first action in eight months following knee surgery and a calf injury.

If Dyche wanted to shake things up in the front, he could let Matej Vydra lead the line over Sam Vokes and Chris Wood. Vydra has come off the bench in the last three matches and scored the equaliser in Burnley’s 1-1 draw in their second-leg tie versus Olympiacos in their Europa League playoff.

Bournemouth (3-1-1) look to be one of the sides who can supplant Burnley as the best of the rest in the Premier League beneath the “Big Six.” The Cherries’ lone loss came in a respectable 2-0 defeat at unbeaten Chelsea in which the match was scoreless until the 72nd minute, and they stormed out of the international break to a 4-2 home victory over Leicester City last weekend.

Ryan Fraser had a first-half brace and assisted on a goal by Adam Smith while Joshua King converted a penalty for Bournemouth, who conceded twice late with the result well in hand. After struggling to score goals in league play last term and finishing with 45, the Cherries have already potted 10 while scoring at least twice in every contest save their loss to Chelsea.

“He can go wherever he wants to go, with his age, attitude, he has a really bright future,” Cherries coach Eddie Howe said of Fraser to the club’s official website. “The key thing for him is believing how good he is and he’s reinforcing that himself with his goal and performance.”

The 10 points through five matches have the Cherries fifth in the table – two back of fellow surprise package Watford for the final Champions League spot – but Howe is warning his team against complacency after equaling the point total it took 11 matches to achieve last term.

“I’m really pleased but it’s just the start. In this league, the minute you get comfortable, it becomes very difficult,” Howe told the Bournemouth Echo. “The next game is the thing to focus on and we know how tough that is going to be.

“It’s all hands to the pump ahead of Burnley now.”

Fraser – the pocket Scot who stands all of 5-foot-4 — has been tormenting opponents and factored on seven of Bournemouth’s 13 goals in all competitions. Callum Wilson has been part of five – scoring two and assisting on three others – while King has converted twice from the spot and set up two more.

The teams have split their league matches in each of the last two seasons, but the road teams were victorious in 2017-18. Bournemouth rallied to win last term’s corresponding fixture as King and Wilson scored in the final quarter-hour to offset an early goal by Wood.

PUNTERS’ NOTES

Per Ladbrokes, Bournemouth’s recent form has made them slight favourites at 6/4, with Burnley 9/5 underdogs. The draw is the longshot of this contest, with 11/5 odds on the team’s splitting the points.

There are 3/1 odds for Bournemouth to win with a total goal haul above 2.5, while there are also 3/1 odds for a 0-0 or 1-1 draw. A Burnley victory with three or more goals has 15/4 odds, while a Bournemouth clampdown and win under 2.5 goals checks in at 17/4. Oddsmakers are not overly sold on a tight low-scoring Clarets victory, with a home win under 2.5 goals at 24/5.

Bournemouth’s Wilson and Burnley’s Wood are joint-favourites to score the first goal of the match at 5/1 odds, while Cherries reserve striker Jermaine Defoe and Burnley’s Sam Vokes are close behind joint-third at 11/2. The Burnley duo of Vydra and Barnes are bracketing Bournemouth’s King at 6/1.

Wilson and Wood also lead the line for any-time goal-scorers at 9/5 odds, with Defoe and Vokes at 2/1. Barnes, who is 21/10 to grab a goal, edges out Vydra and King (9/4) to round out the top five.

PREDICTION

From a distance, this match has the feel of one team (Bournemouth) trying to usurp the other (Burnley) for the title of best of the rest. A back-handed crown to wear? Perhaps. But this is how the Premier League has broken off in the big-money era, in which the race for sixth — and by extension seventh since one of the big six almost always win either or both domestic cups — becomes a de facto consolation prize unless a side rides lightning in a bottle the way Leicester City did.

Bournemouth have been an exciting surprise package similar to Watford, minus the fanfare of playing lights-out defence. The Cherries have been the side everyone wants to see do well because they are aesthetically pleasing more than they are blue-class, which is Burnley’s identity and a style that earned the Clarets the reward of European play during the early part of the season.

It is difficult to tell if the Clarets are fatigued from their continental adventures, though they have played 11 matches already compared to other sides logging just six. To his credit, Dyche has noted it is on him and his players to snap out of this funk. But the goal they allowed to Wolves is something that just didn’t happen last term. And Bournemouth have arguably better options up front in the trio of Fraser, Wilson and King to continue making things miserable for Burnley.

This will also be a game about Bournemouth’s maturity. They admittedly shut off late against Leicester City after racking up four goals, and both the 4-0 margin and 4-2 final did not indicate the relatively even play between the sides in the first 45 minutes. But sometimes that happens. A good performance here for Howe’s team should result in no worse than a draw. Whether that happens, of course, is another matter.

PREDICTED FINAL SCORE: Burnley 1, Bournemouth 1.

OTHER MATCH DAY 6 PREVIEWS:

Crystal Palace (2-0-3) vs. Newcastle United (0-1-4)
Manchester United (3-0-2) vs. Wolverhampton (2-2-1)
West Ham United (1-0-4) vs. Chelsea (5-0-0)
Arsenal (3-0-2) vs. Everton (1-3-1)

2018-19 EPL Match Day 4 preview: Chelsea (3-0-0) vs. Bournemouth (2-1-0)

Maurizio Sarri felt he needed three months to fully acclimate Chelsea to his brand of offence. Through three matches, however, little has gone wrong for the Italian and his Pensioners heading into an intriguing clash with Bournemouth at Stamford Bridge on Saturday.

POTENTIAL STARTING XIs

Chelsea (3-0-0) are one of four sides in the Premier League with the maximum nine points, though they had to put in a volume of graft beyond the volume of completed passes to emerge with a 2-1 victory at Newcastle United last weekend.

Even with more than 900 completed passes and 81 percent possession as Newcastle played five in the back and often had all 10 players behind the ball, Chelsea did not have this match won until an own goal by DeAndre Yedlin three minutes from time snapped a deadlock.

Eden Hazard got his first start and converted a penalty in the 76th minute after Marcos Alonso was felled to bring an otherwise turgid match to life, but it was also clear the Belgium international is still acclimating to his new role in Sarri’s 4-3-3 formation.

“I think he played very well, maybe it’s better for him at this moment to only play 70 or 75 minutes,” Sarri told the club’s official website regarding Hazard. “But after the first goal (Mateo) Kovacic asked to be substituted, so for me it was impossible to let him rest.”

The biggest adjustment for Hazard is staying wide rather than coming to the ball to drive the offense as he did in Antonio Conte’s set-up. “Sarri-ball” has well-defined roles for every player – most notably Jorginho in the middle as distributor – and when Hazard moved inside, it warped the shape of the team to the point where most of those 900-plus completed passes were rendered harmless as Chelsea had only three shots on target.

“Creating more chances from open play is something we will work on, I’m sure,” right back Cesar Azpilicueta said. “We want to control the game and have the ball, and we want to be dangerous in front of the goal. As a team we know we can improve and we will work on that.”

Bournemouth (2-1-0) are not going to be as inclined to sit back and defend with two banks of four. The Cherries are off to their best start in Premier League play and continue to show a staggering amount of resiliency to claim points by any means possible.

The latest example of that doggedness came against Everton last weekend as they fell behind 2-0 at home. They conceded the first goal while having a man advantage and the second after Adam Smith was sent off for denying a clear scoring opportunity as the last man.

But the extra space playing 10-versus-10 allowed Bournemouth the opportunity to utilise their speed through the middle, and they took full advantage. Joshua King converted a penalty to start the final quarter-hour and Nathan Ake slammed home a loose ball on a corner four minutes later as the Cherries emerged with a 2-2 draw which also gave them a Premier League-leading 20 points after falling behind in 2018.

“We’re delighted to achieve another comeback,” manager Eddie Howe told Bournemouth’s official website. “At ten versus ten it was difficult from a mental perspective given how the game had gone. I’m very pleased with the ability to come from behind as it always gives you a chance in a game, but it frustrates us that we allow it to happen in the first place. There’s plenty to learn from it.”

Those lessons still fresh in their heads, the Cherries steamrolled League Two leaders MK Dons 3-0 at home Tuesday. Ryan Fraser, the only starter to hold his place from the weekend, celebrated his call-up to the Scotland national team with a goal, bracketed by ones from Lys Mousset and Jordan Ibe.

The bigger news, however, was the Bournemouth debuts of left back Diego Rico and midfielder Jefferson Lerma. The summer signings – with Lerma’s a club-record £25 million – were a rare aggressive foray into the transfer market by the Cherries, and both gave solid performances in a clinical victory.

“Both of our new players – Diego Rico and Jefferson Lerma – did really well,” Howe noted. “It’s very difficult to come straight into a game and settle in. It will do them the world of good just to have that experience today to feel what it’s like to play for Bournemouth.”

Rico would be the more likely of the two to crack the starting XI if Howe makes any changes, and Lerma was among the reserves against Everton. Where Bournemouth can make hay is by countering through the middle if Jorginho pushes up too far. That allows Fraser to use his pace to find gaps behind Jorginho and in front of Chelsea’s central defence pairing of David Luiz and Antonio Rudiger since N’Golo Kante no longer provides that cover in his new midfield role.

The teams split the two matches last term, with Bournemouth snapping a five-match losing streak in all competitions with a 3-0 thrashing at Stamford Bridge on Jan. 31. Ake, Callum Wilson and Junior Stanislas scored in a 16-minute span of the second half for the Cherries, who have recorded both their Premier League victories over the Pensioners at Stamford Bridge.

PUNTERS’ NOTES

Per Ladbrokes, Chelsea are clear favourites at 2/7 odds, while Bournemouth are 9/1 underdogs to pull off a shock scoreline for all three points. The odds of the sides splitting the points are 9/2.

Oddsmakers are also fairly confident in Chelsea getting a high-scoring victory as they are 7/10 favourites to win with an over of 2.5 goals. By contrast, Bournemouth face 14/1 odds on such an outcome, the same as a draw and over 2.5 goals. A 1-0 or 2-0 victory for Chelsea has 7/2 odds, while a 0-0 or 1-1 draw return 7/1 odds. The Cherries posting a clean sheet with a 1-0 or 2-0 victory is the deepest long shot at 25/1.

For first goal-scorers, Morata is a narrow 10/3 favourite over Hazard and Olivier Giroud (7/2). Pedro checks in at 9/2 to make it 1-0 for the hosts, while Willian is listed at 5/1. For those who believe in deja vu, Bournemouth’s Callum Wilson is getting 10/1 odds to give the visitors a 1-0 lead at Stamford Bridge for the second striaght match.

Morata and Giroud are better than even money to score at any point over the 90 minutes at 10/11 and 19/20, respectively, and Hazard is an even-money pick. Pedro (5/4) and Willian (6/4) trail close behind, while Wilson also leads Bournemouth’s options at 11/4, followed by King and Jermain Defoe at 16/5.

PREDICTION

This match presents an interesting juxtaposition. Chelsea have shown they can take a punch when ahead and still progress, while Bournemouth refuse to give in regardless the score line. Twenty points from losing positions do not grow on trees, people.

In some ways, this match could be similar to the one Chelsea played against Arsenal, only Bournemouth have a midfield that can link to their attackers. The downside is the Cherries do not have the quality in attack of the Gunners, but they have been a handful to shut down since they have scored at least two goals in all four of their matches.

But for Howe’s team to be successful, it starts and ends with Fraser. He is going to have to play an excellent two-way game, which means using his pace on offence and haring around after Jorginho to not let him get comfortable. The other thing evident about Bournemouth is they enjoy being a team.

Against Everton, Wilson missed a good scoring chance early and had another chance go begging. Perhaps sensing it was not his day, he let King step up and take the penalty to start the fight back. Bournemouth have also scored in pairs… they overtook West Ham with two goals in six minutes and knotted Everton with two in four.

There will be clues to how well Hazard adapts to Sarri-ball starting with this match. Hazard had a full match and now has a perfectionist in Sarri explaining every nuance of how Chelsea are to retain their shape. Whether Hazard can fit into this system is still up for debate, but he has made an impact in all three matches and possesses the nous to mesh the concepts with his individual brilliance.

This match should be hotly and evenly contested since both sides have gaps that can be exploited defensively. In the end, Chelsea appear to have just a little bit extra that will separate themselves from the Cherries.

Predicted final score: Chelsea 2, Bournemouth 1.

Other Match Day 4 previews:

Leicester City (2-0-1) vs. Liverpool (3-0-0)
West Ham United (0-0-3) vs. Wolverhampton (0-2-1)
Manchester City (2-1-0) vs. Newcastle United (0-1-2)
Watford (3-0-0) vs. Tottenham Hotspur (3-0-0)