Bournemouth host Brighton on Friday night with the two south coast teams in desperate need of points. Brighton’s win over West Bromwich Albion last weekend will have eased their concerns marginally, but Bournemouth’s four straight defeats to start the campaign have Eddie Howe under severe pressure.
The Cherries have scored just one goal so far, while the Seagulls found the net for the first time against West Brom, and went on to score three in front of a rocking Amex crowd. Chris Hughton might be the most likeable man in the Premier League at the moment, but his side must find a way to create chances on a regular basis.
They overcame the Baggies through energy and a bit of fortune, now they need to retain their trademark defensive solidity while picking holes in an evidently flaky Bournemouth backline.
Brighton have taken four points from four matches. It puts them four ahead of their Friday Night Football hosts, though the failure to beat a 10-man Watford in their third match is a glaring concern.
Their 0.5 xG against West Brom shows us this Brighton side can be calmed in the attacking third. The newly promoted outfit are 8/5 to fail to score, which has to be a decent price despite the defensive worries for Howe’s Cherries.
Bournemouth have evaded criticism so far this season. Less than favourable fixtures have been part of that, but it has as much been good fortune with the focus of negative attention largely being on West Ham and Crystal Palace.
In the showpiece clash to start the weekend, Howe cannot afford for his side to slump to defeat for a fifth straight time. Out of possession they were all at sea last time out, and their attack has been short of ingenuity. Joshua King’s brilliance in the second half of last season is yet to return in this campaign, and summer acquisition Jermain Defoe has barely had a sniff.
Defoe and King are quality forwards, the pair should – and will - feed off each other. Bournemouth’s natural attacking desires can usually be relied on, too. Defoe and King to ignite their season by both finding the net is a tempting 6/1.
This match sees the meeting of two contrasting managerial approaches. Howe’s attack is the best form of defence format should make for an intriguing encounter with Hughton’s pragmatism.
Bournemouth are one of the most exciting teams to watch, in part because of their tendency to produce the ridiculous at both ends of the spectrum. Brighton are an efficient unit, who will frustrate and keep the match tight.
The hosts have found the net just once this season. It will be a long battle to escape the bottom three if they cannot improve on their creation and taking of chances. Brighton are far from the perfect opponent to do that against, but a bouncing crowd at the tightly packed Dean Court will give Howe’s men the upper hand.
Even with their poor start to the campaign, Bournemouth’s price of 11/10 to take three points on Friday is a good value bet.
Howe’s side have been comfortable in the Premier League the last two seasons, and definitely have the quality to overcome a Brighton side still finding their feet at the top.
PREDICTION: Bournemouth 2-0 Brighton (Priced at 17/2 with 888Sport)