Written by Frankie Rudland (@RudlandFrankie)
Bournemouth’s blistering start to the 2018/19 campaign was perhaps the highlight of a season that once again flattered to deceive.
The Cherries picked up 20 points from their opening 10 matches before inconsistency once again proved to be the metaphorical Achilles Heel for Eddie Howe’s troops. Howe himself attributed much of the early success to the side’s pre-season labours at Spanish training camp La Manga – which is incidentally where The Cherries return this summer to kick off their Premier League preparations.
Both Lloyd Kelly and Jack Stacey have travelled with the squad following their moves from Bristol City and Luton Town respectively. Steve Cook, Jordan Ibe and Junior Stanislas have all remained on the South Coast as they continue their rehabilitation, whilst Columbian enforcer Jefferson Lerma has been granted extended leave due to his exploits in the Copa America.
AFC Bournemouth vs AFC Wimbledon, La Manga, 16thJuly, 8pm kick off (7pm UK time)
Fellow La Manga residents AFC Wimbledon will provide the first test for Eddie Howe’s men, with the clash taking place on one of the resort’s eight pitches. League One Wimbledon narrowly maintained their status in the third division of English football last term, surviving the drop only on goal difference. Manager Wally Downes will undoubtedly be seeking improvements from a season that bore little fruit for The Dons, so it would be safe to assume that Bournemouth should expect a gruelling contest in the Spanish sun. New boy Jack Stacey will be all too familiar with the opposition, having played both of Luton’s fixtures against Wimbledon last season, collecting a healthy sum of four points along the way.
Girona vs AFC Bournemouth, Estadi Olimpic Lluis Companys, 20thJuly, 8pm kick off (7pm UK time)
After wrapping things up in La Manga, Howe’s squad of jet setters will make the short trip to Girona for their last action on Spanish soil. Girona suffered contrasting fortunes to their Catalonian neighbours Barcelona last season, crashing out of La Liga to end a two-year flirtation with the Spanish top-flight. Despite coming up short in the fight for survival, Girona are still more than capable of providing Bournemouth with a tough battle. Former Middlesbrough frontman Cristhian Stuani is bound to keep The Cherries back line busy, having netted 19 league goals last campaign.
West Bromwich Albion vs AFC Bournemouth, The Hawthorns, 26thJuly, 7.45 kick off
The Baggies will no doubt prove a more familiar opposition for Bournemouth, with the two sides last meeting in 2018.
Both Stanislas and Ibe notched for The Cherries on the day as Howe’s men helped condemn West Brom to the Championship, which is where they currently remain – for this season at least.
New boss Slaven Bilic will be hoping to change that, however, and with West Brom kicking off their season a week after facing The Cherries, Bournemouth can expect to face a very well-oiled machine.
Brentford vs AFC Bournemouth, Griffin Park, 27thJuly, 3pm kick off
Two games in two days certainly suggests that Eddie Howe may use his sides tie against Brentford to rotate, casting a final eye over his whole squad before solidifying a starting-eleven for the visits of Lazio and Lyon to the Vitality stadium. The Bees finished up in a humble 11thplace after bipolar form that mirrored that of The Cherries yet again halted their progress. Head coach Thomas Frank has made some shrewd additions this summer, however, which could go a long way to stabilising the Londoners results.
AFC Bournemouth vs Lazio, Vitality Stadium, 2ndAugust, 7.45pm kick off
Much like Bournemouth’s 2013 tie with Real Madrid, this fixture feels like it has been plucked straight from the realms of Fifa 19.
The Cherries will once again rub shoulders with European heavyweights as they look to ramp up their pre-season preparations, and indeed the quality of their opposition.
The two-time Serie A champions will provide Howe with a more realistic barometer of just where Bournemouth are ahead of their curtain raiser against Sheffield United on the 10thof August. The Cherries’ return to home soil will also give the Bournemouth faithful a chance to assess any new additions for the first time.
AFC Bournemouth vs Lyon, Vitality Stadium, 3rdAugust, 3.30pm kick off
Expect to see a very strong Bournemouth side take to the field for the visit of Sylvinho’s Lyon.
Eddie Howe will most likely want to test what he feels is his strongest starting-eleven against arguably the toughest opposition that awaits The Cherries in a hectic pre-season schedule.
The French giants finished in third place last season, only bettered by surprise package Lille and the heavily financed champions, PSG.
Despite losing Tanguy Ndombele to Spurs, Lyon still boast a star-studded squad that will almost certainly remain at the business end of the table come May 2020.
A win here for Howe’s side could well be the catalyst for another electric start to the domestic campaign.