Swansea City-Bournemouth Preview
Promoted clubs have one universal goal in their first season in the Premier League: Do everything possible to make sure there is a second season in the top flight.
For Bournemouth, who are in their first season in the Premier League in club history less than a decade after being forced into administration and very nearly relegated to non-League status, Eddie Howe's men are tantalisingly close to achieving their goal, however unlikely it was at the outset.
The Cherries (9-8-12) head into Saturday's clash with Swansea City at Vitality Stadium aiming to extend their unbeaten streak in league play to four matches following back-to-back victories, including a 3-1 result over Newcastle United last week.
A Steven Taylor own goal after 28 minutes opened the door for Bournemouth, who then added goals from Josh King and Charlie Daniels to claim a relatively easy three points.
The generally accepted plateau for Premier League survival is 40 points, and the Cherries are in 14th place at 35 - 11 points clear of the drop and needing only a few more results to guarantee a second season in the Premier League and the estimated £100 million windfall from the new television deal that kicks in for 2016-17.
The Cherries have made a living by striking quickly and riding the wave to get results. No club has scored more goals in the opening 10 minutes of matches than Bournemouth's six, and it's that quick-strike mentality that helped the club record a historic victory over Manchester United.
Cherries midfielder Dan Gosling praised his side for their effort against Newcastle, but emphasised they can't let up as the season run-in draws near.
It was a massive win for us," said Gosling. If we had lost then that could have dragged us back down, but three points move us further away and we're all delighted.
"To go to a stadium like that and play the football that we did is fantastic, we were fantastic for 90 minutes. It's a great feeling looking at the table but there are still a lot of games to come. That has to be our focus, we can't let up now."
Swansea City (8-9-12) are in the same position as Bournemouth, but on less firm ground in 16th place on 33 points. The Swans, though, had a crucial week of success to move nine points clear of the drop by gaining the maximum six points. They followed up a shock 2-1 win at Arsenal with a 1-0 victory over fellow struggler Norwich City last weekend.
Gylfi Sigurdsson scored just past the hour mark for the Swans, who won both their matches with manager Francesco Guidolin hospitalised with a lung infection. While Guidolin was released from the hospital earlier this week, assistant Alan Curtis will guide the team from the coaches' box for a third straight game.
"We got two important victories last week, but it isn't enough yet," Guidolin said. "I want more. I know we have a good team and we can do better and finish the season strongly. It's a difficult league but the table is looking a lot better for us.
"But I hope we can play well again on Saturday against Bournemouth and in the remaining games. They (Bournemouth) are a good team with great enthusiasm. They came up from the Championship, play good football and I'd like to see an open match between two good teams."
If the Swans can get off to a quick start, it will go a long way toward securing a positive result. The Welsh club have lost just one of the 10 times they've scored the first goal of the game this season, but they've also only won on five of those occasions.
Swansea came from two goals down to draw with Bournemouth at the Liberty Stadium in November. King and Gosling had the Cherries ahead after 26 minutes, but Andre Ayew scored two minutes later and Jonjo Shelvey netted from the spot just before halftime.
This the first season these sides have been in the same division since 2007-08 when both were in League One. Swansea won 4-1 at Dean Court that season with Warren Feeney scoring twice en route to their promotion to the Championship.
Bournemouth won 2-1 at the Liberty Stadium in April 2008, but ended that season being relegated to League Two, mainly due to a 10-point deduction for entering administration.