By Jonathan Nagioff (@JonathanNagioff)
The stakes are high already for Eddie Howe’s AFC Bournemouth side, as they look to regain momentum against Newcastle United at St James’ Park on Saturday.
Eden Hazard’s solitary strike was enough to give Chelsea all three points at the Vitality Stadium last time out, as the Cherries failed to register back-to-back wins after a hard-fought victory away to Stoke City in the previous week.
The South Coast side are now entering a crucial period of fixtures in the run up to Christmas, with November consisting of matches with newly promoted Huddersfield Town, Burnley and Swansea City, as well as tomorrow’s fixture against Rafa Benitez’ side.
Speaking to the media ahead of the match, Howe insisted that his side must capitalise on the fixtures lying ahead.
He said, “I think it will define our season, we’ve got to pick up points.
“If there’s a criticism of the team (it’s that) we’ve scored six goals, it’s not enough.
“We haven’t looked as potent in the final third.”
Newcastle have made an impressive start to life back in the Premier League, picking up 14 points from their first 10 fixtures and Howe has called for his side to be switched on.
He told the Bournemouth Rock, “It’s about us trying to not play Rafa Benitez but play the team, play the players and try and be the best us we can be.”
The Cherries will be without both Junior Stanislas and Benik Afobe for the trip to Tyneside, with both players picking up knocks against Chelsea, however Stanislas’ injury is not thought to be as serious as first feared and Afobe should return after next weeks’ international break.
Despite Afobe’s absence, Howe is not deprived of attacking options with Callum Wilson in contention to start, having played 16 minutes from the bench on Saturday and Jermain Defoe, who will be desperate to increase his game time after coming off at half time against the Blues.
The former Sunderland forward was left out of Gareth Southgate’s England squad for next week’s friendlies against Germany and Brazil, but his manager is confident he will be included for the World Cup finals next summer.
“I think he’ll have a big part in our season. He’s already scored a very important goal, he’s had other chances to score.
“The team has to create and be able to supply him with the chances that he needs. We haven’t quite done that this season with the regularity we have done historically.
“I think he will look at it and think he has every opportunity if he performs for us. He will still see that prize at the end of the season.”
AFC Bournemouth face Newcastle United at 3pm on Saturday.