Brighton v Watford: Credit defences in Amex battle
Both Brighton and Watford shipped goals last weekend but Andy Schooler expects a low-scoring game when the pair meet at the Amex Stadium on Saturday evening.
Brighton v Watford Saturday 8 February, 17:30 Live on BT Sport 1
With just three points separating these two sides towards the foot of the Premier League, this looks like a game neither side can really afford to lose.
Hosts Brighton have won just once in their least 10 league games and have subsequently edged worryingly close to the dreaded drop zone; they start this game just two points outside it.
They have at least remained tough to beat at home, continuing a trend from last season.
Despite the summer change to a more attack-minded manager, the Seagulls have remained defensively strong at the Amex Stadium, conceding only 13 goals in 12 home games, losing just three of them - to Leicester, Sheffield United and Southampton.
Graham Potter will surely look to draw on that defensive record following just week's concession of three goals at West Ham, a game which Brighton did actually manage to draw, coming from 3-1 down.
In times of trouble, Brighton have reverted to defence-first tactics for some time now and I'd expect that to be the case here with the Seagulls looking to keep their opponents firmly below them in the table.
The potential return of both Shane Duffy and Dan Burn will could help on that front. Further forward, Glenn Murray will surely keep his place having scored on a rare start at West Ham and that could mean Neal Maupay is again kept on the bench.
If Brighton are looking for some sort of back-to-basics approach in terms of defending, expect Watford to do likewise.
They were shoddy defensively last weekend as they blew a two-goal lead in losing 3-2 at home to Everton.
Hornets' slip in form
Boss Nigel Pearson is a man who wants the simple things done properly and he'll have been fuming at how his side defended. You can bet your bottom dollar it's an area he's paid a lot of attention to in training this week.
Following a run which saw 13 points collected from a possible 15, the Hornets have picked up just one of the last nine on offer, with the importance of late goals being shown. Everton's winner came in the last minute, less than two weeks after Aston Villa had netted in injury time to beat them.
Winger Ismaila Sarr missed both games and he could be a significant absentee again here - Pearson spoke about not wanting to rush the Senegal international's return, saying it was important that when he came back, he stayed back.
Tom Cleverley will definitely be available though to add bite to the midfield.
Draw a lively option
For some, Watford will offer a bit of value at 3.80to win the game.
On the face of it, two late defeats are hardly the end of the world, although there is the suggestion that the worm has turned for a side who had been going great guns prior to those results.
They've already won without conceding at both Norwich and Bournemouth, sides who, like Brighton, are very much in the relegation battle.
The home side look a tad short at 2.18 given their recent run, one which has brought just one clean sheet in 15, and it is the draw which looks most appealing in this market at 3.50.
As suggested, this is a game where neither side can afford to lose and that may well be reflected in the approach of both.
Go low on goals
On that note, the best bet for the day looks to be on under 2.5 goals.
Much focus in both camps this week will have been on tightening up defensively and, to be fair, last week's backline woes were far from the norm.
Remember Brighton have conceded just 13 home goals, while Watford have kept five clean sheets in 10 league games since Pearson was appointed.
The under 2.5 stats are particularly strong with 75% of games at the Amex delivering on the bet, while 67% of Watford's away matches also fit the bill.
Yet the unders option varies little in price from its overs counterpart - 1.96 as opposed to 2.02.
The head-to-head record is also encouraging.
Yes, Brighton won 3-0 at Vicarage Road on the opening day of the season but that game is the only one of the last nine between the pair to have featured three or more goals. Since Brighton's promotion to the Premier League, four of the five encounters have seen under 2.5 goals with the games at the Amex ending 0-0 and 1-0.
Webster's repeat show?
While expecting few goals, I'm also going to have some speculative interest in the first goalscorer market given the troubles both sides had defending set-plays last weekend.
Watford conceded twice from corners against Everton - only the Toffees and Villa have now conceded more from set-pieces this season - while Brighton let one in from a free kick and a partially-cleared corner. They also scored from a flag kick.
The man I like at a tasty price is Brighton's Adam Webster.
The summer signing from Bristol City been a real threat on corners this season, scoring three goals so far. All of those have been the opening goal and in a match where I'm expecting few, it's his market for me, not the anytime scorer one.
He's up at 25.00 to repeat the first-goal trick here and I can't resist a small play.
Watford have lost 15 points from losing positions in the Premier League this season, including six across their last two matches. Only in 2017-18 (21) have they lost more in a single campaign in the competition.