If Bournemouth had been told as their Premier League promotion got underway they’d be tied with Chelsea five matches in, they likely would have taken it.
The problem is the Cherries are even with one of Europe’s powers because the defending league champions have dipped to the bottom quarter of the table. There’s still lower to go, where Sunderland find themselves as one of three winless clubs.
Both sides will try to climb Saturday at Dean Court as they meet in the top flight for the first time and the first time in any capacity since 1989-90 second tier.
Bournemouth (1-1-3) fell 3-1 at Norwich City on Saturday after picking up four points in their previous two matches with a win at West Ham United and a home draw against surprising Leicester City. At Carrow Road, they fell behind 3-0 by the 67th minute before Steve Cook scored in the 81st minute.
Seven of the nine goals the Cherries have conceded have come in the second half, and their manager said there’s work to do.
"It’s all about the learning and development of the squad from here," Eddie Howe told the club’s official website "When we do have moments like this we have to show our strength.
"This season was always going to be like that – we are going to have disappointments and setbacks. It’s a good test of the group now to see how strong they are."
Cook’s strike was just the club’s second from anyone other than Callum Wilson, whose success has joined him on the climb from third tier to top with Bournemouth’s other four goals. The 23-year-old has picked up where he left off last season with 20 goals in 45 Championship matches, which followed a 21-goal third-tier campaign in 37 games with middling Coventry City in 2013-14.
He’s now got some help with Glenn Murray up top after the Cherries signed the striker from Crystal Palace on deadline day. Murray, who scored seven goals in 17 Premier League matches a season ago, came on in the 57th minute against Norwich and could get his first start before a home crowd.
While Bournemouth have won possession in four of their five games, Sunderland (0-2-3) are yet to do so in any and the 18 percent of their passes coming in the attacking third marks the worst ratio in the division.
The Black Cats, sitting on two points along with Stoke City and Newcastle United, are in familiar position with a five-match winless stretch to begin a third straight Premier League season. It stretched out to six last season, though that came with five points. In 2013, it latest eight with one draw and seven defeats.
It reached five in Sunday’s 1-0 home loss to Tottenham Hotspur, though manager Dick Advocaat saw positives.
"If we keep working like this and keep playing like this the points will come," Advocaat told the club’s official website. "It is hard (to take) because one point can let you say after the last four games that we did not lose. The whole team did really well and I cannot say that one player was not good in the game."
The 11 goals the Black Cats have conceded trail only Chelsea’s 12, though they could have a new-look back line in place should on-loan right back/wing DeAndre Yedlin crack the lineup.
The United States international joined the club on loan from Tottenham on deadline day and will provide Sunderland with some pace along the right side.