Leeds United vs Middlesbrough Betting Preview – 31/08/18

Leeds United vs Middlesbrough Betting Preview – 31/08/18

Leeds United vs Middlesbrough

Friday’s Championship match up between Leeds United and Middlesbrough is already shaping up to be the biggest of the season so far, despite being only the final game of August. Marcelo Bielsa’s Leeds had a barnstorming start to the new campaign; the only side in England’s second division to win their opening three matches.

But two dropped points away to Swansea gave Middlesbrough the chance to capitalise, winning their last four Championship games following a 2-2 draw on opening day at Millwall. The two goals conceded at the Den on the 4th of this month are also the only league goals scored against Boro this season, as the side begins to shape into a typical Tony Pulis outfit.

Both sides know what it takes to play in the Premier League. Despite it being almost 16 years since Leeds were in the top division, their relegation in 2004 ended a run of 11 seasons in the top flight. Middlesbrough, on the other hand, who enjoyed a similar run of Premiership football between 1998 and 2009, were last promoted from the Championship as recently as 2016. However, their spell was short-live as they lasted only the one Premier League season before returning to their current competition.

Bielsa has labelled the visit of Boro to Elland Road on Friday night as his side’s hardest of the season so far. “Middlesbrough are an important rival opponent,” Leeds’ Head Coach told the media on Wednesday. “There is no doubt about that and it will be a very difficult and tough game.” The biggest boost to Bielsa’s hopes of a victory this weekend is the likely return of captain Liam Cooper.

Cooper formed the backbone of Leeds’ defence during their perfect start to the season – his headed goal against Stoke City on opening day highlighting his threat from set pieces too. Another likely returnee for the home side is the former Middlesbrough man Adam Forshaw, who was unavailable due to international duty and has yet to feature this season. Tom Pearce and Jamie Shackleton are still doubts for the league leaders.

Tony Pulis has spoken of his expectations tomorrow as his Middlesbrough side travel to Elland Road. “It will be a tough game, they’ve got some good players and they’ve got a really top coach who knows what it’s all about with the experience.” The Boro boss made 10 changes to his side as they beat Rochdale in the Carabao Cup second round on Tuesday night with Friday’s game in mind.

Daniel Ayala at centre-back was the only player to retain his place for the tie. Despite speculation of a loan move to Nottingham Forest, Rudy Gestede remains a Middlesbrough player, but also remains on the sidelines with an ankle problem.  

The game itself sees the highest scorers and the meanest defence in the competition go head-to-head. Despite scoring 14 goals in five games this season, Leeds will have a tough time to break down a Boro defence that hasn’t conceded since the opening day. But Bielsa’s side are not short of attacking options across the pitch; midfielders Mateusz Klich and Pablo Hernandez share three goals each this season – Hernandez also holds a 100% shot accuracy in the league.

Whilst striker Kemar Roofe is tied for second most goals in the competition with four alongside two assists. Middlesbrough’s main attacking outlet is Martin Braithwaite, who also has three goals in five games so far this campaign. Braithwaite however had his blushes spared last Friday when his glaring miss from inside the six-yard box ultimately did not cost Boro the three points against West Brom.

If the game becomes a tight affair, both sides have threat from set pieces. Daniel Ayala marked his return to the Middlesbrough side by being the first to anticipate a late free-kick at the Riverside last Friday. This type of goal is typical of a Tony Pulis side and typical of Middlesbrough this season as four of their nine goals this season have come from set pieces.

Whilst Leeds are not quite as clinical from dead-ball scenarios, when they do score from a set piece it tends to be at Elland Road with both of their set piece goals this season have coming there.

Recommended bets:

Draw at 5/2 with Bet365 – BET HERE

Both teams to score at 4/6 with SkyBet – BET HERE