Split by a mere two points, Brighton and Bournemouth’s contrasting starts to the season have met in the (lower) middle of the Premier League. The New Year’s Day lunchtime hosts started well, but their run of one win in 10 league matches has left Chris Hughton’s side teetering.
Bournemouth, meanwhile, had a torrid start. The Cherries have had brief relief by taking four points from their last two matches. The last gasp win over Everton was needed and brought an end to a nine-match winless run. Eddie Howe might just see that as a springboard to find a little comfort.
It’s probably a good time to visit Brighton. The Seagulls are still struggling in the final third, and sit in the bottom three on expected goals (per understat). Additions to their frontline will almost certainly come in January, so Bournemouth are fortunate to get their trip to the Amex in before any new names appear.
Howe’s team are not the same as they were last season. Where Joshua King was a sensation early in 2017, their attack is short of potency. Jermain Defoe has struggled at times this season, and defensive fragility remains.
Pair that with Brighton’s limitations going forward, and under 2.5 goals looks a worthwhile pick. Hughton is a pragmatic manager at the best of times, but a lack of creativity forces the south coast side to prioritise defence. It has worked for the most part, putting them in the top half of the expected goals against table.
At 11/20, the price on under 2.5 is on the short side. I still would consider it, though, as Brighton have failed to score in five of their last six.
As you have probably guessed, this match does not look like a good one for the neutral. Hughton has his Brighton side well-drilled, and will set out to avoid defeat first. Unfortunately, efficiency seldom makes for aesthetically-pleasing football. This match is not going to shake you out of your New Year’s Day hangover, unfortunately.
If there are going to be any goals in this at all, then Pascal Gross to score at 21/5 is certainly the value pick from both teams. It’s far from a nailed-on thing, but the German is very likely to be involved if the hosts do create anything meaningful.
I am going to sit on the fence here. It would be great to see a thriller to start the Premier League’s 2018 adventures, but we will have to wait for one of the later kick-offs for such a match. A point is acceptable for Bournemouth, and it’s no disaster for Brighton, who would keep themselves above the Cherries in the table as they await attacking reinforcement.
The highlight of this might be how people react to it on Twitter. I am expecting a lot of snoring GIFs, and a fair bit of whining that there haven’t been any goals.
Of course, I am hoping that I am hideously wrong. So wrong that we watch one of the best matches of all time. It would be reckless to tip that, though.
TIP: Match to finish 0-0 @ 13/2
*Odds subject to change - correct at time of writing*