AFC Bournemouth manager Eddie Howe has admitted that tomorrow’s game against Crystal Palace is important, as his side look to move closer to Premier League survival.
The Cherries moved another step closer to retaining their top flight status after last weekend’s 2-2 draw at Watford, Jermain Defoe’s last gasp equaliser keeping the south coast side in tenth and nine points above the relegation zone.
Roy Hodgson’s Palace, meanwhile, are firmly embroiled in a relegation battle, with the club just two points above the drop zone and in real danger of slipping below the Cherries’ local rivals, 18th-placed Southampton.
But, in his pre-match press conference this morning, Howe asserted his belief that the clash with the Eagles is still crucial for his side:
“It’s a huge game for us, it’s a home game and we know the importance of it.
“We’ve got tough games to come but they’re all tough in the Premier League.
“Every run-in will be analysed to the nth degree but we know this is a big game in our schedule.
“We’re looking forward to it, we believe we can win it, but it’s not going to be easy.
The Cherries’ boss also broke the news that in-form winger Junior Stanislas has been ruled out for the rest of the season, and is facing a race to be fit for pre-season in the summer.
The 28-year-old has played a major role in his side’s upturn in fortunes since December, with his five goals helping the Cherries pick up invaluable wins – namely a stunning free-kick to complete the comeback against West Bromwich Albion a fortnight ago, and the Dorset club’s second goal at last season’s champions, Chelsea.
“He picked up a serious knee injury against Watford and has been operated on.” Howe confirmed.
“We’ll be looking now towards next season and whether he’ll make the start. We’ll have to see how his rehab goes.
“He’s a big miss for us. The medical team worried about his cruciate but it’s an anterior injury – the better of the two evils. He’s had an operation and we’re happy at how that has gone.”
Also sidelined for tomorrow’s game are Adam Smith, and potentially club captain Simon Francis.
“Adam Smith will also be out, he’s made good progress and we’re pleased with how he’s getting on. We hope to get him back before the end of the season.
“Simon Francis has had a day’s light training so it will have to be a very late call on him.”
Howe was also asked about Jermain Defoe’s chances of making Gareth Southgate’s 23-man England squad for this year’s World Cup. The veteran striker, who joined the Cherries as a free agent last summer, has only netted four times since his switch to the south coast. Defoe also picked up a serious ankle injury against Chelsea in December, meaning the 35-year-old has only just returned to the first-team fold at the Vitality.
But the Cherries boss told the media that he believed ‘age was irrelevant’:
“I don’t think Gareth [Southgate] will look at the age at all. He’ll look at the player, his experience and what he can bring.
“That’s the beauty of Jermain, Gareth knows him inside-out. There’ll be no risk attached to him.
“But there’ll be no guessing regarding Jermain’s qualities. It’ll be up to Gareth to make that decision.”
Kick off at the Vitality tomorrow is 3pm.