Andy Tongue predicts a tight, low-scoring affair when second visits third in Saturday lunchtime’s big live Championship game…
Bournemouth v Middlesbrough
Live on Sky Sports 1
The surprise package of the Championship this season have confounded the sceptics and currently sit in third place, just two points of their opponents here (and Watford) after being held to a 1-1 draw at Cardiff on Tuesday. Eddie Howe‘s side are strong at home – they have lost just three games at Dean Court all season and only one of their last 16 in the league there.
The Cherries are the division’s leading scorers with 79 goals from their 37 matches. Their exciting quartet of attacking threats include Callum Wilson, Yann Kermorgant and Brett Pitman, who cracked in a first-half hat-trick at home to Blackpool last Saturday, along with winger Matt Richie.
Wilson and Pittman were paired in midweek but Howe may well be tempted to give a start in this one to Kermorgant ‘the Championship Cantona‘ who relishes being the centre of attention.
Tuesday night’s 1-0 win at Derby was hailed as the biggest result of the season for Boro and justifiably so, coming hot on the heels of the 4-1 thumping of Ipswich at the Riverside last Saturday. I expected Aitor Karanka‘s men to win that one and recommended it as the best bet but was slightly surprised it was such an emphatic performance, which augurs well for them as the season enters its most crucial phase.
Boro had been struggling a little away from home prior to that win at the iPro Stadium with successive defeats at Sheffield Wednesday and Nottingham Forest but there’s no doubt that the momentum is now well and truly back with Karanka’s men.
Patrick Bamford scored the winner on Tuesday as well as a brace on Saturday and is in red-hot form, while club captain Jonathan Woodgate came off the bench at the weekend and played the full 90 minutes at Derby, rolling back the years with his immaculate reading of the game.
Over/Under 2.5 Goals
This will be a clash of two styles with Bournemouth’s attacking football (they are the division’s leading scorers with 79 goals from their 38 games) up against the meanest defence – Boro have conceded just 27, 11 less than anybody else.
At Derby on Tuesday, Karanka’s men soaked up the home side’s pressure at the beginning of both halves and then struck clinically when the opportunity presented itself. You have to think they will adopt similar tactics here, seeking to neutralise their hosts varied attacking threats while hoping Bamford can pounce on any half-chances that come his way. The Boro manager will have to decide if Woodgate can play a third match in a week but his experience and composure at the back could make all the difference again here.
Nobody can doubt the Cherries’ ability to score goals but with so much at stake and Karanka’s skill at setting up his side to nullify their opponents’ strengths, I’m expecting a tight game. Under 2.5 goals has been backed into 1.8810/11 but I still make it the recommended best bet.
The market makes Bournemouth favourites here at 2.26/5, while the visitors can be backed at 3.55/2 for a second huge win on their travels in five days. The Cherries have been superb this season but I think Boro are hitting top form at just the right time and with the confidence gained from that win at Derby can go down to South Coast and get something from this game.
The draw, available at 3.55n/a, always represents value in the match odds market and I reckon Karanka would bite your hand off if you offered him a point to take on the long journey back up to north east, prior to this match. With the feel-good factor in his squad from the last two games, I think that’s exactly what’ll he get here and backing the stalemate is the second recommended bet.
Back under 2.5 Goals at 1.8810/11 *Best bet
Back the draw at 3.55n/a
Staked: 105 pts
Returned: 102.94 pts
P/L: – 2.06 pts
*2pts best bet if stated
1pt other recommended bets