When these two teams met at Turf Moor last November, there were two goals inside the opening five minutes and that was that. The clean sheets had gone, the sense of adventure diminished and the final three-quarters of the contest didn’t produce a single shot on target. Both teams threw their best punches early and then retreated, happy to settle for a point.
Brighton were still unbeaten at the time and seen as the Championship’s trailblazers, while Burnley talked in the build-up about putting down a marker. A win would have taken them above the Seagulls and they wanted to make home advantage count. As it transpired, though, there was an impasse over who the onus was actually on.
Now the roles are reversed. Burnley are sitting pretty on a four-point cushion at the summit, whereas Brighton start the weekend in the seceond automatic promotion spot ahead of Middlesbrough’s trip to QPR on Friday. The responsibility is evidently on the home side in the build-up and Chris Hughton talked earlier this week about making a statement. But again, in reality, you suspect it will play out cautiously.
The psychological ramifactions of defeat to one of your nearest rivals can be huge at this stage of the season and that knowledge has to be factored into the arithmetic. A draw is a decent result for Burnley, we can all see that. But it might also be a good result for Brighton, even more so if Middlesbrough drop points on Friday evening.
It only adds weight to the case for backing the draw at 11/5 that we’re talking about two teams who have picked up around three-quarters of their points against bottom-half opposition. Burnley have picked up 18 of their 21 wins against teams currently 13th and below, Brighton 16 of their 19. Between them, 32 matches against top-half opposition have delivered 18 draws.
Nobody is suggesting the stalemate should be a 4/5 shot but the discrepancy between the actual price and the tendency of both sides to ‘have what we hold’ in games of this magnitude is so great you need to come up with a pretty convincing reason not to back it. Given the equilibrium that exists in both camps coming into this clash, I can’t think of any.
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