You’d think that Liverpool would have some sort of advantage running out in a League Cup quarter-final against a side plying their trade in the Championship, but with the Reds recent results contrasting greatly to those of their lower league hosts, there won’t be anything easy about it.
While the Anfield outfit was coming up scoreless in the draw with Sunderland and the loss away to bitter rivals Manchester United, the Cherries were carrying on a twelve match unbeaten run that’s seen them put five past recently relegated Cardiff City, sneak past perennial challengers Wolves and hold a gritty Millwall side to a 2-2 draw. You may be able to pass that off as Championship clubs playing Championship football, but to be fair, our standard hasn’t been all that much higher.
Maybe that’s harsh coming off the back of a loss to United in which we created more chances than I care to recount, but when you consider the fact that we could capitalize on none of them and allowed then to take advantage of almost every single one that they created, then the brash assertions from a number of talking heads that Liverpool are there for the taking sound a little less crass in their boldness. To be fair, it’s bordering on accepted fact.
Even though the Reds of last season are almost certainly well and truly gone, it doesn’t take that long of a memory to think back on the last meeting between these two sides when Eddie Howe’s boys gave their more prestigious visitors — the dearly departed Luis Suarez, the continually injured Daniel Sturridge, the currently struggling Raheem Sterling and all — a run for their money. Liverpool may have run out comfortable winners on the day, but had the Cherries been even a touch more clinical in front of net, things wouldn’t have been so easy for Brendan Rodgers and his charges. On the day, a lacklustre defence from the Reds and the hosts misfiring strike-force hinted at things to come — though it’s shocking which has progressed and which has regressed.
Bournemouth currently lead the scoring tables across all four divisions with an astounding 44-goals in 21-league matches, while Liverpool, well, the less said about their defence the better. Incumbent shot-stopper Simon Mignolet has been dropped to the bench for an “indefinite” period of time and under-study Brad Jones set to stand between the sticks for Wednesday’s match, as well as the rest of their fixtures for the foreseeable future.
Maybe the Cherries impressive haul of goals doesn’t impress you much considering the off-hand way that most Premier League clubs treat their less prestigious brethren, but the Cherries have proved that they can score against the big-boys, finding their way to the quarter-finals at the expense of top-flight mainstays West Bromwich Albion. That their win over the Baggies came on the back of an unrelenting 8-goal demolition of Birmingham City did not go unnoticed and will have to be taken into account by Rodgers considering Howe had his side warm up for this one by putting 5-goals past Cardiff City on Saturday that included the continually impressive Calvin Wilson and four others on the score-sheet.
In the very same vein, Bournemouth have also been conceding goals with the Bluebirds putting three past Artur Boruc at the weekend — something else that will certainly peak the Reds bosses interest. Raheem Sterling, who could be rested, and Mario Balotelli, who will most likely start, both had a host of chances against United on Sunday, but between a stellar display from David de Gea and a lack of confidence, they failed to find the net with any of them. With one eye to the meeting with Arsenal at the weekend, anyone finding the net under any circumstance will be a boon to their cause. That being said, any suggestion that Liverpool’s focus should be on the weekend ahead of what should be a relatively simple display should be met with heaps of scorn.
The League Cup may not be the most prestigious trophy around, but in a season relatively void of smiles on any front, lifting it in February could make a season that’s been well short of goodwill a little more bearable. That being said, it’s still a long way to the final and Bournemouth will do everything they can to heap the misery on us, Championship side or not. Go ahead and ask West Brom whether or not they had it easy against the “weaker” opposition…