The Cherries take on Luton at Kenilworth Road and could go four points clear at the top of the Championship with victory
AFC Bournemouth travel to Kenilworth Road and could go four points clear at the top of the Championship table with a win over Luton in Saturday’s lunchtime kick-off.
Scott Parker’s side come into the tie off the back of three consecutive victories including last weekend’s 3-1 win over Yeovil in the FA Cup third round.
The Cherries league form has recovered after going six games without a win before victories over QPR and Cardiff during the festive period restored the Dorset club to the top of the table.
Luton provided a tough test for Parker’s side back in August when goals from Dominic Solanke and Philip Billing sealed victory for the Cherries in a 2-1 win at Vitality Stadium.
Speaking prior to the game about the last time the two sides faced each other, Parker said: “It was a close game to be honest with you.
“They started the game really well and probably should have scored and put themselves in front and then we asserted our authority but the longer the game went on they certainly came into the game.”
Solanke will be looking to continue his fine goal scoring form after finding the net three times in his last two league appearances. The striker now has 18 league goals and has been drawing attention from potential suitors. The 24-year-old will again look to get his name on the score sheet when he faces Nathan Jones’ side later today.
Junior Stanislas and Adam Smith have been ruled out of the tie with a hamstring and knee injury respectively, whilst Jordan Zemura is away at the African Cup of Nations with Zimbabwe.
Emiliano Marcondes’ hat-trick against Yeovil has propelled the Danish midfielder into a potential starting berth with Leif Davis or Robbie Brady an option at left back. New signings Ethan Laird and James Hill are unlikely to feature, with Parker saying it may be “too soon” for the defensive duo.
Parker also admitted he was “under no illusions” about the task his side will face and admitted it will be a physical game in a difficult atmosphere.
He added: “They are a good side, a very aggressive team. Physically they are aggressive but also the way they play putting numbers into the box and they create opportunities and put you under pressure in their way.
“We are under no illusions this is a very tough away game for us - a tough place to go.
“I think also what comes into play is their stadium, their home stadium is a tight ground, it can be intimidating so we need to go show our quality for sure and stamp our authority on the game and play our way and show our way.
“We need to stand up and match whatever may come at us, which I am sure we will.”
Luton have not played a league game since December 11 but did dispatch Harrogate with ease last weekend with a comfortable 4-0 win over the Yorkshire side in the FA Cup.
The Hatters sit 16th, 10 points clear of relegation but equally 11 points off the playoffs with several games in hand over teams around them and Parker described the Bedfordshire club as a “dangerous animal” whose league position does not reflect the quality they possess.
A 1-1 draw with Fulham in their last league game just goes to show they can rough it with the best the league has to offer.
Elijah Adebayo, who found the net against Fulham, will be someone for Lloyd Kelly and Gary Cahill to watch closely. The striker has scored 11 goals in 21 appearances this season and will carry Luton’s main goal threat.
Jones’ only absentee is striker Harry Cornick with the Welsh coach welcoming back Danny Hylton and Tom Lockyer from injury.
Midfielder Luke Berry could start after returning in the win over Harrogate after several months out with a knee injury. Berry has an eye for goal too with four goals in seven league appearances and came off the bench last weekend to grab the Hatters fourth goal.
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Predicted line ups:
AFCB: Travers; Davis, Kelly (c) ,Cahill, Stacey; Lerma, Cook, Billing, Marcondes, Christie; Solanke (4-2-3-1)
Luton: Shea; Burke, Naismith, Bradley; Bree, Berry, Lansbury, Bell; Clark, Adebayo, Jerome (3-4-3)