Sat side by side in the Championship table, just one point shy of the play-offs, Brighton & Hove Albion and Nottingham Forest lock horns this weekend at the Amex Stadium and respective bosses Gus Poyet and Sean O’Driscoll will have spent all week stressing the importance of the fixture to their teams.
Coming into the Christmas period, points are more crucial than ever but the duo may have to settle for one apiece given how evenly matched they look this season – both teams share the same number of points, wins and goals scored so far.
The bwin bookmakers have found them similarly hard to separate, with the draw well priced at 11/5, Albion favourites at 19/20 and the away win priced up at 29/10.
A look at the statistics reveals that it has been tough for any team to separate themselves from the Seagulls this term, with rivals Crystal Palace the only side to hand them a defeat by more than one goal.
So expect Brighton to keep it tight and with less than half of Forest’s strikes coming on the road, they should keep it under 2.5 goals at 4/5, even if they don’t claim a seventh clean sheet at 8/5.
Defence has proved a great platform for Albion this season as they have turned eight opening goals into wins, so should Brighton strike first at 13/20, then lead-win looks good at 11/20.
That run of play selection is generally the way this fixture has gone for the past few years, with six of the eight Albion-Forest encounters ending 1-0 or goalless.
Another 1-0 home win could be a decent earner at 13/2, but there’s equally good value in Albion winning a game of under 2.5 goals at 7/2.
New customers using the free £20 bet they receive when registering with bwin would pick up an impressive £90 should Brighton prevail either 1-0 or 2-0.
The last meeting between the teams in March looked to be heading for yet another 1-0 finish before Joel Lynch’s 93rd-minute equaliser secured Forest a share of the points.
And while it might not be as dramatic this time around, given the evenness of the sides this season, I’m sticking with the draw and will have a small flutter on a repeat result at 19/4.