By Dan Bennett
CHERRIES face a difficult game against a tough to beat West Ham side who have excelled under the management of Slaven Bilic this season and find themselves in 6th position.
The weekend’s FA cup performance against Birmingham City which saw a Bournemouth side with 11 changes win 2-1 has given Eddie Howe something to think about in his future team selections.
However, Howe will likely revert to a much more familiar lineup for the fixture against the Hammers and the likes of Harry Arter, Steve Cook and Andrew Surman are all set to return to the side.
Tokelo Rantie is unavailable for the game after picking up a knock in his calf but other than the long term injuries, Howe has no new injury concerns.
New signings Benik Afobe and Juan Iturbe are yet to receive clearance to play from the Premier League but could be registered in time for the fixture and there’s a chance they could go straight into the team.
Speaking on whether Afobe could feature against West Ham, Howe said: “We’ll wait and see, he’s fit obviously as he’s played games for Wolves but that will be down to my team selection.”
The last time Bournemouth played West Ham at Upton Park the Cherries picked up their first ever Premier League win, a day which Howe remembers fondly.
He said: “It was a big day for the club, our first win in the Premier League, not only the win but the way we did it.” - Cherries went on to win the game 4-3 thanks to a Callum Wilson hat-trick.
Howe went on to add: “I’m full of admiration for Slaven Bilic and the job he has done at West Ham this season. I think they’re a really competitive side, very good defensively of late so we know we’re in for a really tough battle but if we can replicate our good form going into this game then we’ve got a good chance.”
West Ham will be without Manuel Lanzini whilst Diafra Sakho and Victor Moses also remain injured. Enner Valencia and Cheikou Kouyate will be assessed before the game.
The Irons have won their last three fixtures in all competitions which includes a 2-0 win against Liverpool and haven’t lost in the last 8, drawing five and winning three.
Cherries will have to be at their very best tonight if they are to gain a result, particularly with West Ham’s impressive defensive record. Though with only one loss in their last seven, Bournemouth are certainly capable of achieving a result and a 2-1 win is my prediction.