Liverpool to pit their skills against Cherries

LIVERPOOL resume their Premier League campaign with a visit to Vitality Stadium against Bournemouth, as they aim to stay perched top of the table.

But it will not likely be a straightforward match as the Reds are facing one of the league’s in-form teams.

Liverpool will also be without Mohamed Salah and Wataru Endo, who are with their respective national teams in the African Cup of Nations (AFCON) and AFC Asian Cup kicking off this weekend.

It will be a test for Liverpool as Salah, the club’s all-time fifth top scorer who has 14 league goals so far this season, is the go-to person for goals.

He could be unavailable for about a month, depending how far Egypt can go in AFCON.

After Bournemouth, Salah could also miss two huge matches – home against Chelsea and away against Arsenal at Emirates Stadium.

Cody Gakpo, Luis Diaz, Diogo Jota and especially Darwin Nunez will have to step up in Salah’s absence and contribute with more goals and assists.

With Japan as one of the favourites to win the Asian Cup, Endo, who was awarded Liverpool’s player of the month for December after some fantastic display, could be unavailable for a month.

Fortunately, Alexis Mac Allister is back from his injury and would most likely be lined up alongside Curtis Jones and Ryan Gravenberch in midfield.

Trent Alexander-Arnold is another player who will be sorely missed, having hyper-extended his knee during the 2-0 win over Arsenal in the third round of the FA Cup and is expected to be out for at least three weeks.

His importance will be tested in the coming weeks.

Conor Bradley, who put in a man-of-the-match performance in the 2-1 win over Fulham in the Carabao Cup semi-final in midweek, is expected to be Alexander-Arnold’s cover.

Others who are unavailable included Joel Matip, Andrew Robertson, Kostas Tsimikas, Thiago Alcantara, Stefan Bajcetic and Ben Doak, due to their respective injuries.

As for Bournemouth, Andoni Iraola will be without several key players, including Dango Ouattara and Antoine Semenyo, who will be playing at AFCON.

Others who will be unavailable include Marcos Senesi (suspension), Milos Kerkez, Lloyd Kelly, Tyler Adams, Ryan Fredericks (injuries) and Hamed Traore (illness).

The starting line-up will most likely be Neto, Illia Zabarnyi, Adam Smith, Chris Mepham, Max Aarons, Marcus Tavernier, Philip Billing, Ryan Christie, Lewis Cook, Justin Kluivert and former Liverpool player Dominic Solanke, who is the club’s top scorer this season with 13 goals in all competitions.

Prior to the 3-1 defeat to Tottenham Hotspur on the final day of 2023, the Cherries had been on a seven-match unbeaten run in November and December.

The standout result was the 3-0 win over Manchester United at Old Trafford.

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