With the big kick-off just a few days away, it’s finally time to consider which side Eddie Howe will go with ahead of our opening game of the season against Nottingham Forest.
Firstly, it’s worth noting that Jonjo Shelvey has already been ruled out of the game, with the midfielder set to sit out of this one with a hamstring injury expected to keep him sidelined for the next couple of weeks.
Based on the formation we appear to be going with and our pre-season programme, this is the side we expect to start come 3pm Saturday:
(4-3-3): Pope – Trippier, Schar, Botman, Targett – Willock, Guimaraes, Joelinton – Almiron, Wilson, Saint-Maximin.
For me, Eddie Howe is facing the following dilemmas – Pope or Dubravka? Burn or Schar alongside Botman? Sean Longstaff or Willock in Shelvey’s absence?
Pope and Botman may have been eased into the side had they only just arrived, but they’ve both played a few pre-season friendlies and appear to have settled in well.
Neither have come to sit on the bench and will be seen as first-team players who can immediately improve us. It is a bit harsh on Dubravka and Burn – who’ve done little wrong under Howe – but the latter may have to make way, for now at least, until Botman is comfortable playing on the right-hand side.
In a game we’ll be looking to get on the front foot in, it will also appeal to have two ball-playing centre-backs in Schar and Botman, and the same applies to Willock – who caused havoc for Bilbao in that first half alongside Bruno and Joelinton.
How do you see us lining up, folks?