THE new Championship season continues on Saturday with Leeds taking on Burnley in front of the live cameras. Mark O’Haire (@MarkOHaire) takes a look at the best bets from Elland Road.
Leeds v Burnley | Saturday 12.30 | Sky Sports 1
Hey look, Leeds are live on TV. It won’t be the last time we get to see the Whites this month either. It won’t be the second last or even the third last time,we get a glimpse of Yorkshire’s finest. No, Uwe Rosler’s men will be screened live on Sky Sports FOUR times during August alone and rather than trying anything too witty, I thought I’d just air that whinge. When September rolls around, I, like many Football League fans will be more adept at answering Leeds United related questions on Mastermind than our own beloved clubs.
Anyway, by Leeds’ standards, it’s been a relatively quiet and stable summer. Sure, fans favourite Neil Redfearn was replaced and has moved on but there’s actually plenty to be positive about for fans of the Whites, in my humble opinion. Rosler’s appointment should be celebrated and following finishes of 14th, 13th, 15th, and 15th they may well be ready for a top-half finish.
Rosler has a point to prove following a setback in his young management career. His departure from Wigan seemed a little untimely and it’s worth remembering the German laid the first foundations for success at Brentford too. The new boss has spoken in detail about creating a top-six mentality, wanting to improve fitness, shape and discipline and bringing about a ‘heavy metal’ football philosophy to the club, similar to Jurgen Klopp’s Dortmund.
Signings too have been astute as opposed to unknowns or journeymen. Midfielder Tom Adeyemi has impressive pedigree, centre-back Sol Bamba impressed on loan and the £3m spent on Chris Wood should at least guarantee more goals than the meagre 50 managed last time out. Rosler’s admitted the squad lacks pace and width but the arrival of Brentford winger Stuart Dallas should fill that void.
All this on top of that outstanding crop of academy graduates that broke into the first-team last term provides extra optimism; it’ll be interesting to see how the likes of Lewis Cook, Alex Mowatt, Charlie Taylor, Sam Byram and Liam Cooper kick on from last year. Midfielders Luke Murphy and Tommaso Bianchi will be missing on Saturday but after a gruelling pre-season in Germany, I expect the squad to be ready.
Burnley are an interesting proposition. I loathe to side with relegated sides but Sean Dyche’s men were rarely embarrassed and rarely outclassed during their Premier League campaign. Despite finishing five points off safety the Clarets were only beaten by more than two goals twice in the top-flight, eight of their defeats came by a single goal margin and they kept a hugely impressive 10 clean sheets.
But three key men have departed and although the squad looks stronger than their promotion season two years ago, the first XI is undoubtedly weakened by the loss of top scorer Danny Ings, skipper Jason Shackell and outstanding right-back Kieran Trippier. Matthew Lowton, Tripper’s replacement, is definitely out whilst Jelle Vossen’s involvement is touch and go.
Dyche has challenged Lukas Jutkiewicz to take up the goal-getting mantle for the troops from Turf Moor but word is, he’s carrying a knock too and it was a lack of goals that cost the Clarets last year. Burnley failed to score in nine of their final 14 fixtures and the boss has already spoken in pre-season about the need to be more clinical.
Burnley make the short trip across the Pennies as favourites but I’m not keen to part with cash; Favourit make the visitors a 2.40 play and although Leeds lost more often than won at Elland Road in 2014/15, they did beat four of last season’s top eight teams in front of their home supporters. A return of W11-D4-L1 in their previous 16 season openers also holds sway.
The home side are 2.04 (Favourit) in the Draw No Bet market and that seems fair – if the match ends all square, we get our cash back. Turning the tables immediately following relegation is a tall order, even for Dyche, and we can see just that it in the opening day results for teams that dropped out of the Premier League in the past five years – W6-D2-L7. That 40% win rate would make the visitors 6/4 (2.50 in decimal odds) and so show no value in Burnley.
The goals markets intrigued me too, purely from a statistical perspective but the prices are just too restrictive to punt. Throw in Rosler’s new approach and I’ll leave it well alone but it is worth noting that 17/23 (74%) of lunchtime kick-offs in the Championship last season featured Under 2.5 Goals – throw in Leeds’ record of seeing fewer than three goals in seven of their past 10 when hosting relegated teams and the fact Burnley saw Unders bank in their final 13 Premier League bouts (their final eight went Under 1.5 Goals) and it’s understandably skinny.
Leeds v Burnley – Leeds draw no bet (2.04 Favourit)
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