Both Bournemouth and Watford have ambitions for an immediate return to the Premier League. Mark O'Haire shares his thoughts on Saturday's showdown...
"The Hornets have registered W8-D2-L2 to join the automatic promotion hunt, whilst underlying performance data suggests the visitors have been the Championship’s most dominant"
Bournemouth v Watford Tips
Saturday February 26, 12:30
Bournemouth suffer costly midweek defeat
An abject first-half display proved costly for Bournemouth on Wednesday night as Jonathan Woodgate's first game in permanent charge of the club ended in a damaging 2-1 home defeat to fellow play-off chasers Cardiff. The Cherries had a mountain to climb after falling 2-0 down at the break following Sean Morrison's header and a Kieffer Moore penalty.
Bournemouth showed some signs of life in the second period, mainly through Junior Stanislas, whose break led to Shane Long pulling a goal back. But it was not enough to prevent a second successive Championship loss, which also sees the Cherries slide out of the top-six positions, having now been overtaken by the opponents on the night.
Woodgate was critical of his side's defending for the set-piece opener, as well as Diego Rico's "stupid" challenge that gave away the penalty. However, the new boss was keen to rally his troops, saying: "We are trying to get as many messages across as possible. I want a big reaction out of the players - I want them to show me how much pride they have got to get this next win."
Watford remain on right track
Watford continued to heap pressure on the promotion places with a battling 3-2 away victory at Blackburn on Wednesday evening. Joao Pedro and Ismaila Sarr put the Hornets two up before Harvey Elliott halved the deficit right on the stroke of half time. Ken Sema restored the advantage midway through the second half, before Rovers struck again.
The Hornets were able to see the game through to claim a fourth consecutive win. Nevertheless, head coach Xisco Munoz felt his side could have done more to kill the game off. The Spaniard was pleased with his side's continuation of their winning streak particularly away, but still felt there was plenty to work on ahead of this weekend's clash.
Munoz said, ""It was a good performance. I think in the first half we have the control of the game, but in the second half it changed a little. Also, we have the chance in some transitions to try and kill the game. We want more. I think we can play better, we can have the control in both the first half and the second half. I think our team is ready for to have that control."
Bournemouth have bagged a solitary success in their last 11 league meetings with Watford yet a huge eight of those encounters have ended all-square in stalemates (W1-D8-L2). October's reverse contest concluded in a 1-1 draw, whilst four of the previous seven match-ups on the south coast have also gone to form, seeing the spoils shared (W1-D4-L2).
Bournemouth 2.829/5 were unbeaten in Championship action until November but the Cherries have struggled to find consistency thereafter, leading to Jason Tindall's dismissal. The hosts have proven more consistent in their home surroundings W9-D3-L4, although results since Christmas (W2-D1-L3) have caused concern as form has dissipated.
Watford 2.727/4 have been one of the division's form sides since Xisco Munoz was brought in. The Hornets have registered W8-D2-L2 to join the automatic promotion hunt, whilst underlying performance data suggests the visitors have been the Championship's most dominant and best performing side over those 12 games, highlighting the turnaround.
It's been feast or famine for goals backers following Bournemouth this season. A chunky 38% of Championship contests have concluded with fewer than two goals, whilst a healthy 31% of matches have featured four goals or more. Five of the hosts' most recent seven have returned Over 2.5 Goals 2.1011/10 with the hosts keeping three shutouts in 12 since Christmas.
Watford have largely refound their defensive resilience of late. The Hornets boast seven shutouts in their past 12 Championship contests, and 11 clean sheets in 20 going further back. That's meant goal-heavy games have been reasonably hard to come by - the hosts have seen Over 2.5 Goals land in only seven of 21 league encounters since mid-November.
With the pressure on both sides to pick up precious points in the race to return to the Premier League, I'm not anticipating an end-to-end thriller when the duo lock horns on Saturday, especially with the quick turnaround from their midweek matches. However, I am keen to keep Watford onside with the Hornets Double Chance and Under 3.5 Goals standing out as a 1.804/5 play on the Same Game Multi.
Mark's 2020/21 Profit/Loss
Staked: 108.00 pts
Returned: 114.12 pts