AFC Bournemouth are fighting to remain in the Premier League as we return to action this weekend. The Cherries have established themselves as a top tier side in recent years but that status is under real threat as they sit in 18th place with nine games remaining this season.
They return to action this weekend hoping that the unfortunate, enforced break will give them some renewed impetus as they had been struggling for form prior to it, picking up just one point from an available 12 in their last four league matches in a run that included a 3-0 away defeat to mid-table Burnley.
The visitors to the South Coast this weekend are a Crystal Palace outfit that were actually in much better form before the campaign was brought to a halt. The Eagles won their last three matches against Newcastle United, Brighton & Hove Albion and Watford all by a 1-0 scoreline.
Looking at those results, this may not be the most entertaining fixture for the BBC to broadcast, but it will be important for the Cherries and the rest of the teams struggling towards the bottom of the table. Unfortunately for Eddie Howe and his side, we can see the visitors taking the points after that three game winning streak.
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Bournemouth vs Crystal Palace Predictions
Squawka Stat: Luka Milivojević has the second-highest amount of yellow cards in the Premier League this season with nine.
Luka Milivojević does a pivotal job in the heart of this Crystal Palace midfield. While the likes of Wilfried Zaha and Andros Townsend are relied upon to supply creativity and an attacking impetus, the Serbian midfielder is employed as a ball-winning enforcer in the centre of the field and he ranks very highly for the Eagles in metrics such as Interceptions and Possessions Won In Middle Third.
Inevitably however in the role he plays, he also ranks highly in fouls committed and indeed in yellow cards. The nine bookings that the former Olympiakos man has picked up make him the joint-second most yellow carded player in the league this season behind Chelsea’ Jorginho – but we think he could reach double figures and match the Italian international in this game.
These two sides are quite well matched and there is likely to be a tussle for possession and dominance play out in the centre of the park. Bournemouth’s Jefferson Lerma, who also has nine cards to his name this season, will go head-to-head with Milivojević here but with the combative 29 year old having already picked up one Premier League yellow this calendar year (plus a red card against Derby County in the FA Cup) we suspect he could have his name taken once again at the Vitality Stadium.
Squawka Stat: Philip Billing ranks first for tackles at Bournemouth this season with a total of 65.
Bournemouth are known for their attractive, passing style of play and although this could be a midfield battle as we mentioned regarding the previous tip, it’s one that Crystal Palace are more likely to win with their more combative style.
In fact, the Cherries rank 20th of 20 in terms of tackles attempted and tackles won this season and challenges lost, showing that perhaps Eddie Howe is lacking some ball-winning ability in his squad – aside from Philip Billing that is.
The former Huddersfield man has been a key man in this area of the field this season, not only keeping possession but ranking top for Bournemouth in terms of tackles won. With the majority of this game likely to be played out in the middle third, Billing’s ability to attempt and win tackles will be required if the Cherries are to stand any chance of taking something from this fixture.