ANDY Townsend predicted Cherries would avoid a Premier League relegation battle – and argued a lower mid-table finish would represent a good effort.

Former Chelsea, Aston Villa and Middlesbrough midfielder Townsend was present to watch Cherries share an entertaining 1-1 draw with neighbours Southampton on Sunday.

Eddie Howe's side climbed two places to 14th following the draw at Vitality Stadium and extended to five points their cushion on the drop zone.

Although Cherries face the likes of Manchester United, Liverpool and Manchester City in the league this month, ex-Republic of Ireland star Townsend reckons the Dorset side will pull through.

And he says Cherries can get close to their club-record ninth-place finish of last season.

Townsend told the Daily Echo: "There can sometimes be an unrealistic expectation of what a team can achieve. You can find yourself in a position where you are aspiring to better things but you have to keep back a bit of expectation.

"There are constant reminders of the division you are in and the company you are in, and that nothing should be taken for granted. The defeat to Burnley, for example, brought people down to earth with a bump.

"For any team like Bournemouth which categorises staying in the Premier League as their number one aim, any finish which sees them stay up is a good one.

"I think a good finish for Eddie and the players would be 12th or 13th.

"You are never too far away from looking over your shoulder but you end up looking reasonably comfortable even though you have never really enjoyed any comfort during the season.

"I don't see Bournemouth being in desperate trouble come May. I do think they will be playing Premier League football next season.

"Are there three worse teams than Bournemouth? Most certainly. And some of the teams below are going to have to play exceptionally well to finish above Bournemouth."

During his playing career, Townsend won the League Cup twice with Aston Villa.

And the 54-year-old feels further progress in that competition or a charge to the latter stages of the FA Cup would take Cherries' season to another level.

Howe's men are set to face Chelsea in the League Cup quarter-final on Wednesday, December 20, while their FA Cup campaign is due to begin in January.

Townsend added: "What would be a really good season would be to finish 12th or 13th and also to have a cup run.

"They could be a team which brings down bigger clubs, with the right draw of course. A good cup run is something I'm sure the locals would love and I'm sure Eddie would as well.

"It's a big ask against Chelsea but who knows? And there is still the FA Cup to come."

Townsend helped Republic of Ireland reach the World Cup quarter-finals in 1990 and captained the Boys In Green as they made the round of 16 four years later.