Bournemouth and an improving Nottingham Forest team, both competing for Premier League survival, meet on Saturday at the Vitality Stadium.
Even though Forest have won three of their last five league games to get out of the relegation zone, their opponents are 17th in the table after losing to Brentford 2-0 last time out.
Despite winning their first six Premier League games under Gary O’Neil, Bournemouth’s subsequent decline has been steep: They have lost eight of their last nine games following their defeat in London last week.
Only a 3-0 victory over fellow strugglers Everton has broken the Cherries’ four-game losing streak, and they appear particularly lacking in creativity in the final third.
They have lost their last four games by a total of 9-0, and the South Coast club has never lost five games in a row in the top flight without scoring; illustrative of the scope of O’Neil’s challenge at the season’s halfway point.
Bournemouth’s new owners have promised fresh money, but there hasn’t been much movement of players in or out this month. A team that also lost the FA Cup to Burnley, who are the pacesetters in the Championship, clearly lacks confidence.
O’Neil would most likely prioritize front-line reinforcements if given the option, as no Premier League venue has seen more goals this season than the Vitality Stadium (19), and Wolves have only scored six fewer goals at home.
However, Nottingham Forest has only scored twice in nine away games since promotion, and Bournemouth also has recent history to their advantage: The clubs have combined for four victories from their last five matches against Forest, which took place in September.
At that time, at the City Ground, the Cherries won 3-2 after coming back from two goals down. This came after a depressing start to life for the two-time European champions among the elite of England.
In that bitter defeat, hometown hero Brennan Johnson scored from the penalty spot; however, his most recent performances, as well as those of his teammates, have reached a higher level; transforming Forest into a formidable team.
The Reds have won their last two Premier League games, beating Southampton 1-0 and Leicester 2-0. It will have been especially satisfying for their long-suffering fans to beat their East Midlands rivals on home soil.
Johnson was set up to score twice by the club’s record signing, Morgan Gibbs-White, who is becoming more and more influential. As a result, Forest have scored nearly two points in each of their last six games.
Steve Cooper’s hastily assembled team is 13th in the league at the midpoint of their return to the top flight. They are also looking forward to next month’s EFL Cup semi-final matchup with Manchester United, so they absolutely expect to return to Nottingham with all three points on Saturday night.
Bournemouth expect to be without first-choice forward Dominic Solanke once more as he struggles to recover from a knee injury that kept him out of the loss to Brentford. Bournemouth already lack firepower in the final third. As a result, Wales striker Kieffer Moore ought to be reinstated.
The Cherries have at least reached an agreement to sign Lorient winger Dango Ouattara, who will be the first player brought in under the Bill Foley era. Jamal Lowe has been sent out on loan, and Marcus Tavernier remains out.
The 20-year-old has scored six goals in 18 Ligue 1 games this season and is set to move to England for around £20 million. However, he is not available on Saturday due to issues with his work permit.
Dean Henderson, Nottingham Forest’s number one goalkeeper, has been placed on the injured list. Henderson suffered a thigh tear last week and will be out until March; Wayne Hennessey, who has a lot of experience, will step in once more.
Willy Boly, Cheikhou Kouyate, Jesse Lingard and Moussa Niakhate are hard and fast as well, and Taiwo Awoniyi is currently set to be inaccessible to Steve Cooper for longer than at first anticipated. A groin injury may keep the former Union Berlin player out of contention for a few more games after he was substituted after scoring the winning goal against Southampton earlier this month.
Morgan Gibbs-White and Brennan Johnson ought to work together in the visitors’ attack in his absence. Gibbs-White has more assists (four) than any other Forest player combined, and Johnson is currently tied for the club’s top scorer with four goals.
Bournemouth’s potential lineup for the game:
Neto; Kelly, Stacey, Mepham, Senesi; Cook, Christie, Lerma, and Anthony; Billing; Moore’s possible starting lineup for Nottingham Forest:
Hennessey; McKenna, Aurier, Worrall, and Lodi; Freuler, Mangala, and Yates; Scarpa;
NEWS ABOUT THE NOTTINGHAM FOREST TEAM
Gibbs-White, Johnson Willy Boly and Omar Richards ought to resume training before this match. Henderson won’t be back until the end of February, while Kouyate will be back in the beginning of March. After recovering from his thigh injury, Lingard will return to the field at the beginning of February.
BOURNEMOUTH TEAM NEWS
Tavernier and Brooks are expected to return to training these days after sustaining minor injuries. Stanislas and Frederiks, on the other hand, are still unavailable to the manager. Due to a knee injury, Solanke will be out for a few more weeks.
PREDICTION FOR BOURNEMOUTH VS. NOTTINGHAM FOREST
Bournemouth has lost six of their last seven games and has only won two of their last 13 in all competitions. They may struggle here, as they have lost three of their last four league games at home.
The Forest have won their last two games and only lost one of their last five across all competitions. They could win all three games this weekend because they are in much better shape than their opponents.
Prediction: Bournemouth loses to Nottingham Forest 1-0.