Brighton v Bournemouth
Monday 1 January, 12:30 GMT
Live on Sky Sports
A good 2017 for Brighton
The Seagulls flew north to Newcastle and picked up a point, meaning that they will end 2017 in 12th position in the Premier League. That's some effort from Chris Hughton and his players, and while they are only four points clear of the relegation zone, they have plenty of things in their favour.
The main one is probably their defensive resoluteness. They have conceded just 25 goal in 21 games, which to put into context, is the same amount as Arsenal, and less than any other team outside the top eight.
Obviously a mere 15 goals in the 'For' column is an issue that needs addressing, but if you keep clean sheets you only need to score once to win a game, and goalkeeper, Matthew Ryan, has had eight shutouts so far this term.
Chris Hughton made five changes from the side that lost 2-0 at Chelsea on Boxing Day, with Gaetan Bong and Bruno brought in to strengthen the back four. I would imagine that the manager will have a slightly more attacking line-up and tactics for this fixture, but I very much doubt that he will deviate too much from the norm.
Cherries on the rise
I have to admit that Bournemouth surprised me by beating Everton on Saturday. I did the match preview for that fixture and while I got the Over 2.5 Goals selection right at odds-against, I was way off with my tip of an away win.
That victory lifted the Cherries into 14th place in the table, but like their opponents here, they are just a couple of poor results away from the bottom three.
Eddie Howe's side have now taken four points from a possible six since their 4-0 loss at Man City on the 23rd, and they've netted five goals in the process. Those five goals represent 25% of their total goals to date this season, but I would still think that the manager will be making a move for an attacking player or two in January.
One note of concern in that area is that Joshua King was subbed due to a hamstring injury, so he must be a huge doubt for this game, and with Jermanin Defoe still sidelined, they are very reliant on Callum Wilson in the short-term.
Spoils to be shared
The hosts have been plugged in as the 2.427/5 market leaders, with the draw at 3.259/4 and a Bournemouth win at 3.55/2.
Given the lack of options for the visitors in the attacking third, I am happy enough to rule out the 3.55/2 as an option as it feels a wee bit on the skinny side. Even more so when you think that Brighton have only been beaten twice at the Amex this season - and Bournemouth have only won twice on their travels.
Then we have the home win, but with the Seagulls batting at a 30% win-rate in front of their own fans since their promotion to the top flight, I wouldn't be getting too excited by a price of 2.427/5. The fact that it's just one win in seven gives me even more reason to put a line through it.
That leaves the draw, and at 3.259/4 I'm more than happy to have a go. The scores have been level in five of Brighton's last seven on this ground and the same can be said for two of Bournemouth's last four on the road.
There just aren't many goals in this game as Hughton's men are averaging 0.71 goals per 90 minutes, while the injury affected Cherries are only weighing in at 0.95 anyway.
A draw wouldn't be the worst result in the world for either team, and it has to be my selection here.
Where will the goals come from?
Given what I've just written, it should come as no surprise that Under 2.5 Goals is trading at around the 1.625/8 mark. It would have landed in 16 of Brighton's 21 fixtures this year, and while Unders backers would have only been paid out in nine of Bournemouth's 21, three of those have come from their last five away from home.
If you want to buck the trend and go for Over 2.5 then that can be backed at 2.56/4, but I certainly wouldn't recommend it, and I much prefer delving into the Over/Under 1.5 Market for an extra bit of value.
At around 2.829/5, Under 1.5 Goals appears to be an excellent price. Of the 16 Brighton matches to go Under 2.5, half of them ended with just one goal scored, and even better, seven of Bournemouth's nine to go Under 2.5, also saw the ball in the net on just one occasion or less.
The man in charge for this fixture is Michael Oliver and he is averaging exactly four yellows per game this season, with one red card every four games or so.
The hosts have yet to have a man sent off this season, while the visitors have had just one red card. Neither club have a particularly high yellows per game average either - 1.38 v 1.62 - so if you're looking for a bet in these particular markets, I would advise that you focus at the lower end of potential selections.
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