CAPTAIN Simon Francis knows recovery time will be vital as Cherries prepare to embark on the most hectic period of the season.

Francis has described the punishing festive schedule as “like going back to our days in League One and the Championship”.

And he believes Cherries’ experience of the grind of the lower leagues will stand them in good stead for their top-flight marathon.

Starting with Saturday’s visit to Crystal Palace, Eddie Howe’s team face no fewer than eight games in 24 days – including seven in the Premier League.

Lying in wait for Cherries before Christmas are the current top four – Manchester United, Liverpool, Manchester City and Chelsea, who they meet in the Carabao Cup.

Francis told the Daily Echo: “We know how important the next few games are. There are lots of points at stake throughout the month and it could really define our season.

“The recovery part of things is massive now. If you have Saturday-to-Saturday games, you can relax a little more. You know you won’t be training until some tough sessions in midweek.

“The turnaround at this time of year is so quick with games coming either Saturday-Tuesday or Saturday-Wednesday.

“You simply have to recover correctly and it starts straight after games. You have to go to the treatment room and start doing the bits to make sure your body is ready for the upcoming games.”

Francis earned an immediate recall for the 2-1 defeat by Burnley eight days ago, having sat out Cherries’ 0-0 draw at Swansea due to suspension.

A poor all-round showing against the Clarets prompted boss Eddie Howe to make five changes for the visit of Southampton on Sunday.

Francis said: “It was almost one of those which maybe had to be done just to freshen things up.

“Everyone who has played has played their heart out and you can never question their desire.

“Burnley was a flat performance which hadn’t been expected from us and it wasn’t a normal Bournemouth display.

“The manager felt he needed to bring in some new legs because it was a quick turnaround from Wednesday and I thought we did really well.

“It was probably a fair result against Southampton and both teams had chances to win it.

“The main thing for us was that we improved from the Burnley game and we did. The aim was to give the fans something to go home and be pleased about and we certainly did that.

“I thought we were a lot better than against Burnley and a lot better than we have been in the past few weeks, even in the games we have won.

“If we’d had a better start, I think we would have been right up. All it takes is a couple of back-to-back wins and you are propelled up the table.

“The squad is going to be important over the next few weeks and everyone is going to be needed.”