AFC Bournemouth vs Brighton & Hove Albion
Venue: Vitality Stadium
Referee: Mike Dean
Following a narrow defeat at home to Chelsea, Chris Hughton’s Seagulls will travel to the Vitality Stadium where they will face their rivals, Bournemouth, in a South Coast derby.
Although the Cherries started their season in terrific form, they have been rather lacklustre as of late, losing six of their last seven matches. Their last match at the Molineux highlighted Bournemouth’s defensive shortcomings with both goals scored by Wolves being the product of defensive mistakes.
It is perhaps not a lack of conviction that has condemned the Cherries to their recent listlessness, but rather mere sloppiness and fatigue following difficult matches. Indeed, the recent dip in form has been tremendous as Howe’s men have conceded 12 goals in their five matches. Bournemouth will have to resurrect the version of themselves seen in the early stages of the competition if they are to retain their mid-table position.
Brighton sit one place below their South Coast counterparts, and although they lost to Chelsea in their last outing, they are arguably the team heading into this match with better form. Their late rally at the Amex last Sunday is evidence of progression in Hughton’s team as the team’s wingers and fullbacks displayed some impressive attacking play. Away fixtures still pose a stumbling block for Brighton however, and narrow defeats continue to be the theme when the Seagulls venture too far from home.
A win at the Vitality would not be a miracle for Brighton by any means when one considers the circumstances, but Hughton has never bested Bournemouth as a manager. The Englishman will have to decide if his team will venture out and attack as they did against Chelsea on Sunday, or whether they will sit in their own half and absorb pressure and rely on counterattacks for success.
Both teams come into this contest having lost their last two matches though. Another loss for either team would not be devastating as both have done enough to distance themselves from the relegation zone, but the stakes are high considering the rivalry and the positions each team currently holds in the table. A contrast of styles will make this match an entertaining one, and it will be interesting to see if either Howe or Hughton change their tactics for this derby.
Adam Smith and Steve Cook are still unavailable for Bournemouth, and it seems as though they will continue to be out for several more months. The loss of Dan Gosling is also unfortunate, and it showcases the relative lack of options currently available to the Cherries in defense. It is positive to note, however, that Simon Francis should be fit for the match against the Seagulls.
Callum Wilson has scored in each of his last two matches against Brighton in the league, and it will be imperative that he channels the same form this Saturday. Being one of the most prolific strikers in the Premier League this season, it would not be surprising to see the former Coventry City man return to the blistering form that earned him a call-up to the national team.
Shane Duffy is still unavailable for selection due to his three-match ban but his replacement, Leon Balogun has impressed in recent matches so Hughton should not be too bothered by the Irishman’s absence. Izquierdo is still nursing an injury but should be available for selection, although it is doubtful he will work his way into the starting XI.
Bernardo remained on the bench for weeks after his debut performance against Watford on opening day. His performance on that day was forgettable, and it was no surprise to see Hughton relegate the newcomer to the bench in following matches. The Brazilian has worked his way back into the team however and was even named man of the match in Brighton’s last outing. He possesses the qualities of a modern fullback, surging forward in attack and dropping back when needed in defense. It will be crucial for the former RB Leipzig man to maintain his current form in this match where Bournemouth will test Brighton’s back line.
Predicted Starting XI’s:
Brighton (4-4-1-1): Mat Ryan; Montoya, Balogun, Dunk, Bernardo; Knockaert, Propper, Stephens, Solly March; Groß; Murray
Wolves (4-4-2): Begovic; Francis, S Cook, Ake, Daniels; Brooks, Lerma, Surman, Fraser; Wilson, King
Score Prediction: AFC Bournemouth 2 Brighton 1
Despite the improvements from Brighton, their frailty away from home remains problematic. To add, it is likely Hughton will want his team to sit back and absorb pressure from Bournemouth which cannot end well considering the Cherries’ strength in attack.
Bournemouth have been poor defensively and it is likely they will concede again on Saturday, but I believe they will make up for their defensive shortcomings with goals. Ryan Fraser and Callum Wilson in particular will be hard to corral, and with no real holding midfielder for Brighton, it is likely the Seagulls will have some difficulty containing the lethal duo.
Brighton will probably force another fiercely contested match, but Bournemouth look likely victors in this contest.