Bournemouth head coach Gary O’Neil feels Sunday’s trip to relegation-battlers Everton can provide a marker as to just how his own squad will shape up for the challenges ahead next season.
The Cherries looked set to be fighting an uphill battle to retain their Premier League status when sitting in the bottom three at the beginning of April.
However, rookie boss O’Neil – who replaced Scott Parker following a 9-0 loss away to Liverpool at the end of August – masterminded an upturn in fortunes with a run of four wins from five games to pull clear of the relegation zone.
Although three straight losses followed a rousing 4-1 home victory over Leeds, other results have meant Bournemouth’s future was secure ahead of what is set to be a nerve-shredding final day of the survival battle.
Unlike Everton boss Sean Dyche – whose side sit 17th, two points clear of the dropzone – O’Neil can plan for next season again with certainty as he looks to keep his club moving forward.
“Everton will be direct and the atmosphere will be tough,” O’Neil said.
“But what a great opportunity for the players to go and show what a good side we are, to see how well we can stand up to the questions that are undoubtedly going to be asked of us.
“So (it is) a real good marker for me, with last game of the season, going into a summer break and then pre-season to just see where we are against what will be a real good test.”
O’Neil told a press conference: “I have not really been looking at any other part of the picture (in the league) other than our own.
“I am aware of the situation with Everton, involving Leeds and Leicester is something I am aware of because we were involved in it for a big part of the season, but up until this moment, it is just pure focus on us.
“We have been on 39 points for a while and have given our best in the last three games to add to that.
“We are just looking to go and be ourselves, to put in a good showing and finish the season on a high.”
Bournemouth will have midfielder Philip Billing available after back issue kept he Denmark midfielder out of last weekend’s home defeat by Manchester United.
Hamed Traore should also be in contention again following his foot problem, but midfielder Joe Rothwell’s thigh injury continues to be assessed.
“We have another training (session) to go. We will see how they come through, but hopefully (the squad will be) as close to full strength as possible,” O’Neil said.
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