Bournemouth and Southampton may not appear to set the pulses racing on the face of things, but this is the Cherries’ biggest test of nerve to date and they now have no more excuses.
For too long, Eddie Howe’s brand of football has drawn plaudits from Jamie Redknapp, and that’s when you know you’re on a path headed south.
Some lovely tippy-tappy nonsense to fit into 30 second videos simply won’t cut it anymore, and now they’ve got one goal: beat Southampton.
How they get that done is upto themselves, but they can’t sacrifice practicality for style anymore, or they’ll be following Norwich back to the Championship before they can finish counting the people in the stands at the Vitality Stadium.
You couldn’t ask for a better opponent – Southampton have run into an identity of their own thanks largely to their faith in their manager. But right now, the least of their worries is how they’ll cope with Bournemouth on a Sunday afternoon.
They are, after all, one of the very few teams with absolutely nothing to play for.
So, can Bournemouth actually manage to win when it counts? Can they add a wedge of substance to their otherwise flimsy system of beliefs?
They can indeed. As much as I think the shouts for Eddie Howe to get the England job are both hilarious and sad, I do think he’ll be somewhat of a pragmatist here and take the clear advantage when it’s being handed to him.
What I mean by that is that he’ll direct his side to go into this game all guns blazing and turn Southampton off it immediately. It’s the only proven way to win games that should be easy for you – to not allow the opposition to play at the half-pace they want to.
Do Bournemouth have the players to do it? Not usually, but an early goal should settle the nerves somewhat and set the tone for a Bournemouth win. Speaking of early goals…
If Howe does send them out the way I suspect, then they’ll come out of the blocks flying and catch a Southampton side who generally have to feel their way into games asleep.
It’s where psychology comes into it more than anything. If you put yourself in Bournemouth’s shoes, they have a sole focus and don’t need any form of catalyst to get them going.
Southampton get off the bus, go through an unfamiliar environment with nothing to spur them on whatsoever.
Ralph Hasenhuttl might even rest a few senior pros whose replacements may need time to adapt. With all that in mind, there’s a tonne of value in Bournemouth to Lead at 10 minutes.
This isn’t the normal market I’d go for, but there’s absolutely no point in Southampton players picking up cards here, nor does the effort required usually lend itself to picking up cards in the first place.
I was tempted to even take the 10 points and under, but all it takes is one refereeing decision to ruin that, so I quite like the extra security in adding 10 points to our insurance policy to make it Under 20 points on the Southampton Card Index.
Tips for Bournemouth v Southampton at 14:00 on Sunday
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