Bournemouth v Watford
Sunday 12 January, 14:00
Live on Sky Sports Premier League and Main Event
It may be a bit early to describe this game as "a real six-pointer" - after all, only five points separate a team in the relegation zone with the one sitting 11th - but it's certainly a big one.
It's 18th v 19th at the Vitality Stadium (always Dean Court to me) and the winners know they will climb out of that dreaded drop zone, at least for a couple of hours.
There are plenty of similarities when it comes to the two teams. Both have had long spells stuck in a rut this season, while both have suffered badly on the injury front too.
But as they approach this game, it is a case of contrasting and not comparing the pair.
Bournemouth are still very much in their rut, their poor run of form now reading one win and eight defeats in their last 10 league games. The most recent was a 4-0 hammering at West Ham when they looked devoid of confidence.
They did at least beat Championship side Luton 4-0 in the FA Cup last weekend but that scoreline was flattering indeed given the chances they conceded, including a penalty at 1-0.
The Cherries have failed to score in five of their last seven in the league and they've taken just one point from the last 12 on offer at home. Only Norwich have won fewer points on their own turf and only Palace have scored fewer goals.
Boss Eddie Howe has regularly been linked with 'bigger' jobs than his current one - he was among the candidates for the recent Arsenal vacancy and remarkably is still the 3/1 market leader to be the next England manager - but the way things are going he'll do well to hang onto the position he's got.
To be fair to Howe, Bournemouth's injury list has been horrific and it's been hard not to feel sorry for the Cherries.
Things have eased slightly on that front but they will still line-up for this game without arguably half of their preferred starting XI - the likes of Josh King, Nathan Ake and David Brooks are all big misses.
Watford, on the other hand, will arrive brimming with confidence.
They've been rejuvenated by the arrival of Nigel Pearson as manager and he's had an immediate and significant impact at Vicarage Road.
Seven points adrift of safety when Pearson was appointed, the Hornets are now just two away following a celebratory festive period which brought 10 points from a possible 12. Santa himself could not have delivered much more.
The return to full fitness of Troy Deeney has worked in Pearson's favour, no doubt, but the new boss appears to have got more out of all areas of the team with Ismaila Sarr a recent standout on the right.
For this game, Craig Cathcart and Nathaniel Chabolah will be available again but Will Hughes, the in-form Kiko Femenia and suspended Christian Kabasele miss out.
Watford the outsiders
Despite the contrast in form, Watford are the underdogs here.
They are 2.8615/8 chances to win the game - Bournemouth can be backed at 2.727/4 - and the visitors surely have to be the bet.
Admittedly Watford have been poor away from home - only Norwich have fewer points and goals on the road - and Pearson is yet to completely transfer their home form to their travels.
But anyone who saw them play at Anfield last month will know they could easily have taken something from the league leaders and they battled well when drawing 1-1 at Sheffield United over Christmas.
Given Bournemouth's struggles, particularly at home where they last won in the league on November 2, this isn't a factor which is going to put me off backing the visitors.
Goals in short supply?
Against the other bottom-eight sides this season, the Cherries have won just one of eight, losing four, and that woeful record can worsen in this contest.
That Watford goalscoring problem away from home is more of a concern for anyone looking to back over 2.5 goals.
Only 20% of Watford's away games have featured three or more goals and with Bournemouth struggling to find the net over the past month, under 2.5 looks fairly decent value at 1.9720/21.
I wouldn't put anyone off that particular bet but despite suggesting few goals are on the cards, I'm happy to play in the first goalscorer market where Gerard Deulofeu looks a tasty 7.613/2 shot.
I've mentioned his streaky nature before - when's he's hot the Spaniard is very difficult to handle and he's certainly more than warm at the moment. With pace and trickery, he's scored in two of the last three league games. Both were the opening goal too, a feat he also achieved in November's win at Norwich. That all means Deulofeu has scored the opening goal in three of his last 10 games.
Pearson praised the former Everton and Barcelona man's recent contribution last week, describing him as "a really talented player - a great lad as well, by the way". Pearson added he had given Deulofeu the "freedom to go out and play".
That is the sort of cajoling which gets the best out of a confidence player like Deulofeu and the way he's playing right now makes him a runner in this market.
In the Premier League this season, Bournemouth have attempted the fewest shots in open play (128) and are the only team to have not reached double figures for open play goals (9).
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