Shot-shy Brighton entertain out-of-form Watford on the south coast on Saturday afternoon. Mark O'Haire previews the encounter...
"Chris Hughton’s troops have fired blanks in five of their last six and haven’t now scored from open play in nine-and-a-half hours"
Brighton v Watford
Saturday 23rd December, 15:00
Brighton's goal-shy attack
Glenn Murray's missed penalty denied Brighton a first win in seven games (W0-D3-L4) against high-flying Burnley last weekend and leaves the Seagulls just three points above the Premier League relegation zone.
Chris Hughton's team played out a second goalless draw in three home outings against the Clarets and Albion's lack of goals is costing the club points. The hosts have managed three goals in that seven-match winless streak but Hughton has played down the chances of altering his current one up front system.
German summer signing Pascal Gross is again expected to play behind lone frontman Murray or Tomer Hemed here but centre-half Shane Duffy serves a one-match ban with Connor Goldson likely to deputise at the back. Elsewhere, Jose Izquierdo and Solly March battle for a place on the wing.
Watford struggling to keep pace
Having beaten Newcastle last month, Watford found themselves only three points adrift of fourth-place in the Premier League. But a combination of poor discipline and slipping standards have seen the Hornets slide to four defeats in five winless matches.
Confidence has clearly taken a hit and several players have looked fatigued by the demands of a punishing festive schedule. Meanwhile, Brazilian winger Richarlison suggested his team-mates' concentration levels have contributed to their recent downturn in results.
Last weekend's dismal defensive display in a 4-1 home defeat to Huddersfield hurt Marco Silva and the Watford boss will now be without Troy Deeney, Abdoulaye Doucoure and Marvin Zeegelaar through suspension here although Tom Cleverley returns from his own ban.
Another stalemate on the south coast?
Only Manchester City and Liverpool have beaten Brighton 2.6813/8 at the Amex this season but an 11-point haul from nine matches isn't good enough for a platform to safety with the Seagulls struggling to turn positive home performances into victories.
Albion haven't won at home since September, drawing five of their last six as hosts. Chris Hughton's troops have fired blanks in five of their last six and haven't now scored from open play in nine-and-a-half hours.
Watford 3.1085/40 arrive on the back of four losses in five road trips, as well as seven defeats in 10 Premier League outings since mid-October, and so the most obvious selection is to back the stalemate at 3.259/4. It's banked in five of Brighton's last six encounters here.
Goals at a premium
Brighton's only goal in their last six fixtures came via the penalty spot and the Seagulls' 0.66 Expected Goals per-game from open play is the second-lowest tally in the Premier League this season.
Despite Duffy's absence, Hughton's hosts are strong enough defensively to keep Watford at bay and so another low-scoring contest could be on the cards. Six of Brighton's previous nine here have featured fewer than three goals, as have nine of Watford's 13 matches against promoted teams since 2015/16.
The Hornets may have seen Over 2.5 Goals 2.285/4 in six of their previous seven games as guests but they've displayed resilience in the immediate aftermath of poor results. Indeed, Watford have conceded just three goals in their previous five games when conceding more than twice the match before, with four paying-out for Under 2.5 Goals 1.674/6 punters.
Staked: 201.00 pts
Returned: 224.93 pts
P/L: +23.93 pts
Back the draw @ 3.259/4 in Brighton v Watford
Back Under 2.5 Goals @ 1.674/6 in Brighton v Watford