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Squad rotation has already begun for table-toppers Liverpool as they look to build on a bright start to a hectic December in Saturday's clash versus Bournemouth at Dean Court.
Liverpool (14-1-0) kept their eight-point cushion with an impressive 5-2 thrashing of Everton in the 234th edition of the Merseyside Derby on Wednesday. Divock Origi resumed his torment of Liverpool's eternal rivals, bagging a brace on either side of halftime while Xherdan Shaqiri, Sadio Mane, and Georginio Wijnaldum scored the other three goals.
"The manager showed us trust and we just tried to repay it as much as possible and get the three points," Origi told Amazon Prime post-match. "We know it's important for our season. It's an important game, it's special, you can hear it. I'm so happy."
Jurgen Klopp's decision to give Origi and Shaqiri starts - the latter making his first of the season - and rest Roberto Firmino and Mohamed Salah among five overall changes from last weekend's victory over Brighton and Hove Albion paid off handsomely. Liverpool ran their club-record unbeaten streak in league play to 32 matches (27-5-0) as Firmino got a late runout and assisted on Wijnaldum's marker while Salah had the rare night off.
"What the boys made of this difficult game was exceptional," Klopp told the club's official website in praise of his players. "We scored incredible goals. We had to fight. A few things didn't work out defensively. First, we probably surprised them with our system; then, they didn't surprise us but we couldn't adapt as quickly as possible as necessary to their little system change. We wanted to wait until half-time - I was fine with 4-1, I was not fine with 4-2.
"But then we adapted to the system. It was an intense game but we controlled it much more again, scored a sensational fifth goal and job done - all good."
Klopp will also get No. 1 keeper Alisson back after the Brasil international served his one-match ban for handling the ball outside the penalty area in the win over Brighton. Mane, who has a team-best 11 goals in all competitions, has totaled four goals and three assists in his last five league contests.
In addition to the usual congested December league fixture list, Liverpool still have Carabao Cup and Champions League commitments. They also are participating in the Club World Cup in Qatar on Dec. 18 and 21, with Klopp opting to take a near full-strength squad to the Middle East for those two matches. The most notable omissions are injury absences Fabinho and Joel Matip.
For the Carabao Cup quarterfinals against Aston Villa on Dec. 17, Under-23 coach Neil Critchley will guide the team for that encounter, with a youthful roster featuring burgeoning talents Neco Williams, Harvey Elliott, and Rhian Brewster. All three played parts in Liverpool's wild win on penalties over Arsenal in October after the teams played to a 5-5 draw.
Bournemouth (4-4-7) have dropped four on the spin after a disappointing 1-0 loss at 10-man Crystal Palace on Tuesday. Despite playing with the man advantage for the final 71 minutes after Palace defender Mamadou Sakho was sent off for a poor challenge, the Cherries failed to make any consistent threats and paid the price on 76 minutes when Jeffrey Schlupp beat Aaron Ramsdale for the lone goal.
"When you are the manager and you are coaching the team, there is no one else to look at other than me," Cherries manager Eddie Howe told The Times, noting his team had been "predictable and a bit stale," and took the blame for the loss by addressing the traveling supporters after the final whistle.
Howe's side have just one win from their last nine matches (1-3-5), and a defense that looked airtight in recording three consecutive clean sheets has been creaky during their skid, shipping nine goals in the four defeats.
The Cherries - who are just two points above the drop in 15th and ahead of West Ham on goal difference -- have little to show from their matches against the Big Six, claiming only a 1-0 victory over Manchester United in four such encounters this term. Bournemouth also have taken just nine points (2-3-2) from their seven home matches.
Fullback Adam Smith is a doubt for this match after leaving Selhurst Park in a walking boot, though Steve Cook could return after missing Tuesday's match with a fractured wrist suffered in the loss to Tottenham Hotspur. At the other end of the pitch, Howe must find a replacement for Harry Wilson, who is ineligible to face his parent club.
Liverpool have done ruthless doubles over Bournemouth the last two seasons, smashing 14 goals without reply in the four wins. They are also 6-1-1 against the Cherries in Premier League play, with the lone loss a 4-3 setback Dec. 4, 2016. Salah had a hat trick in last term's corresponding fixture while Cook contributed an own goal in Liverpool's 4-0 waltz.
Updated December 5, 2019