The Championship play-offs kick-off on Monday night as Bournemouth welcome Brentford to the Vitality Stadium. Mark O'Haire previews the semi-final first leg...
"A chunky 68% of EFL play-off semi-final first legs have seen Under 2.5 Goals land, whilst 40% of matches have produced no more than a solitary strike"
Bournemouth v Brentford
Monday May 17, 18:00
Bournemouth in poor form
Bournemouth boss Jonathan Woodgate insists he is "a hundred per cent" confident recent losses will not affect Cherries' forthcoming play-off challenge. The Dorset side concluded the campaign with three straight defeats - a toothless display against Stoke last time out followed on from reverses against Wycombe and Monday evening's opponents Brentford.
The meek end to the season saw Bournemouth slide to sixth in the standings and came hot on the heels off a seven-match winning sequence that saw the Cherries cement themselves in the top-six. Woodgate named largely the same XI that embarked on that eye-catching streak for the Stoke defeat but admitted there's still three places up for grabs in the side.
Woodgate was keen to maintain the recently-relegated outfit were "underdogs" in the play-off battle and was pleased with his players' efforts since arriving, saying: "When I came in, the objective was to finish in the play-offs. We've done that by seven points. So we have done well and with three games to go, we were in the play-offs."
Junior Stanislas remains an injury doubt with a hamstring issue.
Brentford unbeaten in 12
Brentford head coach Thomas Frank said the Bees could not have done more in their final 12 games of the season to win automatic promotion. The West Londoners finished third in the Championship for the second successive season and this year's points total of 87 was good enough for a top-two finish in 2019/20.
The Bees boss revealed that following Brentford's loss at Norwich in early March - their last defeat - a points target was set for the rest of the season that it was hoped would be enough to secure a place in the top two.
Frank explained: "We thought 24 points from our final 12 games could do automatic, and we did it - so we averaged two points per-game. But unfortunately Watford did a bit better in that spell and went up, so well done to them."
Nevertheless, Frank's troops arrive unbeaten in 12 (W6-D6-L0), and Brentford's total of seven defeats over their 46 games is the joint lowest in the division, along with champions Norwich. Meanwhile, Brentford are hoping to have both Rico Henry and Henrik Dalsgaard back from injury for the play-offs.
Bournemouth and Brentford have been regular competitors this century, with the vast majority of their meetings arriving outside the top-two tiers. Nevertheless, the duo have shared a reasonably balanced W8-D6-L10 return across all league encounters since the start of 2000/01, although the Cherries have dominated at Dean Court, posting W7-D2-L3.
Bournemouth 2.588/5 come into this contest off the back of three successive league losses, including a 1-0 home reverse to Brentford just over three weeks ago. Even so, Jonathan Woodgate's side have tabled the best points return from matches against top-six rivals (W5-D2-L3), with the hosts also pocketing six wins from eight here before the recent Bees defeat.
Brentford 2.486/4 finished the season with a flourish, banking four wins on the spin and extending their unbeaten streak to 12. Thomas Frank's team boast a W4-D4-L2 record against top-six finishers, including W2-D2-L1 on their travels, as well as home and away victories against Bournemouth. The Bees were also the division's second-best travellers.
Goals could be at a premium on Monday night with EFL play-off semi-final first legs traditionally cagey affairs. Indeed, 18 (75%) of the most recent first leg fixtures across the three divisions have featured Under 2.5 Goals 1.758/11 since 2017, whilst longer term trends going back to the beginning of 2000 also point towards a tight tussle.
A chunky 68% of EFL play-off semi-final first legs have seen Under 2.5 Goals land, whilst 40% of matches have produced no more than a solitary strike. The average goals per-game across these fixtures is only 2.09 and low-scoring showdown is expected at the Vitality Stadium.
Brentford have shipped only two goals in their past seven outings - one of which was a penalty - with Under 2.5 Goals copping in 10 of their final 13 fixtures and nine of 10 against the top-six. Bournemouth's match-ups have proven more expressive although the Cherries saw all three home encounters with top-three teams produce a maximum of one goal.
For extra insight on the Championship playoffs and more, listen to this week's Football...Only Bettor podcast
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