Three selections for you this weekend, first up a double from the South Coast Derby.
Bournemouth v Southampton
There were plenty of clued up pundits before the start of the season that felt 2018/19 might be the year for Bournemouth to regress and potentially take the plunge from the Premier League. It’s not a view I shared in the slightest.
Eddie Howe’s guided his group to their best-ever start to a top-flight campaign and Bournemouth have achieved their lofty early-season standing without sacrificing their attacking principles. It’s hard not to have been impressed by the Cherries achievements, even if the schedule has been reasonably favourable.
Saturday afternoon’s hosts have only met one Big Six side – Chelsea – with their seven other opponents currently ranked ninth or below. Nevertheless, Bournemouth have scored at least twice on six occasions, won the Expected Goals count in half their matches, and shot count in five fixtures.
There’s a strong argument to be had for the Cherries being an odds-on shot here.
The home side have recorded five triumphs from their opening eight outings – their visitors Southampton have picked up five wins from their past 37 Premier League games, a quite staggering contrast.
Howe should have a fully fit squad to select from on Saturday, too. Ryan Fraser is expected to shake-off a knock that saw him miss out for Scotland during the international break, and Josh King is also fit enough to feature despite picking up a niggle whilst away with Norway. David Brooks was with Wales but otherwise, the hosts have had little interruption during the past fortnight.
The same can’t be said for Southampton. The Saints saw the likes of Shane Long, Mohamed Elyanoussi, Pierre-Emile Hojberg and Jannik Vestergard involved on international duty as recently as Tuesday night. Meanwhile, Maya Yoshida was away in Russia, and Mario Lemina was on duty for Gabon in South Sudan. The six players are unlikely to return to full training until Thursday at the earliest.
Defensively, I’m never completely convinced with Bournemouth.
The Cherries have conceded more than 60 goals in each of the past three seasons and only kept a clean sheet against Cardiff on the opening weekend before their runaway victory at 10-man Watford.
The hosts have kept just four home clean sheets since the start of last season with 16 (70%) of those matches breaking the Over 2.5 Goals barrier, and 15 producing Both Teams To Score winners. Considering Over 2.5 Goals has also copped in 23 of their past 29 top-flight encounters, a repeat is hard to turn down at an attractive 1.83 here.
However, I’m also going to snap up the bigger odds of 2.08 on a home success. Since arriving in the Premier League, Bournemouth’s record here against bottom-half clubs reads W14-D9-L5 – that’s a 50% success rate.
On to Southampton, and I have to say…
I remain skeptical about Southampton and Mark Hughes.
The Saints have lost three on the spin without scoring before the international break against Chelsea, Wolves and Liverpool, which you can understand. Even so, the visitors’ only win this season has come against a Crystal Palace side missing Wilfried Zaha.
Indeed, Southampton’s only other points have come when sharing the spoils at home to Burnley (who were knee-deep in Europa League commitments at the time) and a draw when welcoming notoriously poor travellers Brighton to St Mary’s. It’s not a great reflection on Hughes.
The Saints might sit third in terms of shots attempted in the Premier League but a deeper dig shows the majority of these efforts are arriving from long distance and it has to be a concern that Southampton have scored four of their six goals via attempts from outside the penalty area, or penalties.
Hughes’ men have shipped two or more goals in all bar two of their contests this term and pitch up at Dean Court with only four triumphs in 23 on their travels since the beginning of 2017/18 – two of those came at relegated clubs last season.
Saints have failed to score in nine of those 23 away trips, losing 11, and so the case is strong enough to support odds-against quotes on a home victory.
Augsburg v RB Leipzig
Two of the Bundesliga’s leading scorers this season face-off on Saturday afternoon as Augsburg and Alfred Finnbogason tussle with second-placed RB Leipzig and Timo Werner.
It’s difficult not to make a case for goals.
Augsburg have scored a club-record 14 goals after seven matches of a top-flight season. Manuel Baum’s charges have fired in 111 attempts – 67 from inside the penalty box – and landed 45 on-target – only visitors RB Leipzig can match that 45 tally across the opening seven games of the campaign.
Finnbogason has helped himself to four goals in two matches since returning from injury, across just 172 minutes of Bundesliga action. The Icelandic forward will be hoping to add to that tally here and he’ll be joined in attack by Michel Gregoritsch, who also found the net in the dramatic 4-3 defeat at Dortmund last time out.
The Fuggerstädter have been generating an impressive 1.09 Expected Goals from open play on average – an excellent return considering five of their opposition sides are currently perched inside the top-half of the table. However, Baum’s men have only secured two triumphs despite these positive performances.
While Augsburg have scored in every encounter, the hosts have yet to manage a clean sheet of their own, and unsurprisingly, five of those seven outings have seen the Over 2.5 Goals barrier beaten. The same selection provided profit in 18 (60%) of FCA’s 30 home fixtures under Baum over the past two campaigns.
Like Finnbogason, Timo Werner has hit the net four times in the Bundesliga this term for RB Leipzig, most recently scoring a brace as Ralf Rangnick’s troops swept past Nuremberg 6-0 before the international break. With key players such as Emil Forsberg, Yussuf Poulsen, Kevin Kampl back to full fitness, the guests are starting to purr in the final-third once more.
Leipzig are unbeaten in their last six and have won three Bundesliga matches in a row for the first time in 2018. Rangnick’s charges are the second-highest scorers in the league (16), behind leaders Dortmund (23), with Poulsen heading the charts with five. Kevin Augustin and Werner have four apiece.
Nevertheless, Die Roten Bullen are yet to keep their sheets clean on their travels, and since the start of last season the guests have recorded just three shutouts in 20 away Bundesliga days. Those matches averaged 3.00 goals per-game in total, while this term their total Expected Goals from open play average stands at 2.66.
With that in mind, it makes sense to support Over 2.75 Goals at an appetising 1.79.
- Bournemouth v Southampton – Bournemouth to win (2.08)
- Bournemouth v Southampton – Over 2.5 Goals (1.83)
- Augsburg v RB Leipzig – Over 2.75 Goals (1.79)