Goals Scarce In South Coast Battle
Bournemouth v Brighton
Bournemouth are the surprise package of the Championship season so far, can they add another three points to their tally?
Four consecutive league wins have catapulted the Cherries up to fourth position in the Championship table, while a midweek Capital One Cup victory over West Brom only serves to strengthen the idea that Eddie Howe’s men are genuine promotion contenders.
Although the scale of last weekend’s 8-0 win against Birmingham can be partly attributed to the poor state of affairs at St Andrews, it also shouldn’t detract from just how good Bournemouth are playing at the moment. They’ve now won seven of their last eight games – five of them without conceding a goal – and with the only defeat in that period coming away to league leaders Derby County.
Callum Wilson is the club’s top scorer for the season with nine goals. Marc Pugh scored a hat-trick in the demolition of Birmingham, taking him level with Brett Pitman on four league goals for the season. Pitman was also on the scoresheet in that game in what was only his third league start of the season.
Brighton, by contrast, come into the game without a league win since August and with only one win in 13 fixtures in all competitions.
The Seagulls have, however, lost only one of their last seven Championship games, with six draws in that period proving that they are a difficult side to beat.
Defender Lewis Dunk has more league goals than any Brighton player this season, highlighting the current problem that manager Sami Hyypia faces and the main reason that they sit only one place above the relegation zone heading into this weekend’s fixtures.
Harry Arter and Steve Cook are available for selection again after they served their one-match suspensions in the midweek game against West Brom. Howe made sweeping changes from the team that beat Birmingham a few days previously and is likely to revert to the core of that XI that beat Birmingham 8-0.
The visitors are without long-term injury victims Dale Stephens, Andrew Crofts and Solly March, while Sam Baldock is available again after being cup-tied for the midweek clash with Spurs.
Three of the last four meetings have ended in 1-1 draws, including both games last season. Matt Ritchie, who scored last weekend for Bournemouth, got the home side’s goal in the game at Dean Court.
Bournemouth are deserved favourites at odds of 10/11, but Brighton’s ability to irk out draws from games should not be underestimated. A point apiece is priced at odds of 5/2 and the away win is 29/10.
An extra days rest from Capital One Cup excursions may be a telling factor and I do like the look of Bournemouth to win to nil at odds of 12/5. Goals in general are likely to be sparse, so Under 2.5 goals at odds of 10/11 is an easy play, while the 1-0 and 2-0 scoreline at odds of 13/2 and 17/2 respectively also make sense.