Gary O’Neil believes Bournemouth need one last push to secure their Premier League status, with the Cherries closing in on safety ahead of Sunday’s meeting with struggling Leeds United.
Bournemouth achieved a third successive away win on Thursday, beating Southampton 1-0, leaving the Saints at risk of relegation and moving seven points clear of the bottom three.
With the most intense relegation battle in recent history set to come to a close, O’Neil is keen to ensure Bournemouth are not resting on their laurels.
“It’s still about avoiding the bottom three,” O’Neil said. “I still believe 36 points can be relegated.
“I think maybe the world heard we were fine when we left Tottenham Hotspur Stadium and then you had a performance against West Ham that we disappointed in, so that’s a really good lesson for the lads.
“You think everything is rosy and then you get a kick in the ass.
“I hope this prepares us well for what will be a difficult match against Leeds, to leave after a huge effort last night, with two days left to recover against a very intense team.”
As Bournemouth move closer to safety, Leeds are increasingly desperate with an alarming drop.
After 5-1 and 6-1 defeats by Crystal Palace and Liverpool, Javi Gracia’s side drew against Leicester City on Tuesday.
With Leeds one point out of danger and facing several challenging matches, Gracia attracted fierce criticism from the club’s fans.
Asked if he was worried about his future on Friday, Gracia said: “I’m just worried about the situation at the team.
“When I arrived, we were in a worse position.
“We wanted to get more points, but we’re focused on doing our best in the five games left, and that starts with Bournemouth.”
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Bournemouth – Dominic Solanke
After scoring 17 goals in 23 home league games for Bournemouth in the Championship last season, Solanke has scored just once in 14 appearances at the Vitality Stadium this season.
However, the former Liverpool and Chelsea forward has a total of 12 Premier League appearances this season (five goals, seven assists), at least three more than any of his team-mates (Marcus Tavernier has nine).
Leeds United – Jack Harrison
As well as leading the way in chances created (50) and assists (seven) for Leeds in the Premier League this season, Harrison has made more passes (309) and carried the ball further (3,479 metres) than any other player for the Whites competing this season.
Meanwhile, only Rodrigo (11) and Luis Sinisterra (five) surpassed Harrison’s tally of four league goals for Leeds this season. With Gracia’s men on the slide, they need the wing to provide some attacking inspiration.
MATCH PREDICTION – DRAW
Leeds have won 10 of their previous 13 league games against Bournemouth (D2 L1), including nine of their last 10. This represents their best winning percentage against any opponent they have faced at least 10 times in league history (77%) .
However, only Nottingham Forest (six) have won fewer away points than Leeds’ nine in the Premier League this season, and the visitors have kept only once in their last 18 away games.
While Bournemouth’s need for points is less urgent than Leeds’ need after their midweek win, the Cherries have taken 15 points from their last eight league games (W5 L3), so they are hoping for a result that brings them closer to safety.
OPT CHANCE TO WIN
Bournemouth – 34.7%.
Leeds United – 37.1%.
Draw – 28.2%.