MARK O’HAIRE (@MarkOHaire) shares his betting thoughts ahead of Monday night’s Championship tussle between Leeds and Middlesbrough.
Leeds v Middlesbrough | Monday 19.45 | Sky Sports 1
No side has won more points on the road than Middlesbrough’s tally of 24 in the Championship but the Teesiders may not have enough in the tank to claim an eighth away victory of the campaign on Monday.
Aitor Karanka’s solid but unspectacular side can return to the top of the table with a win at rivals Leeds but Boro’s recent dip in performances and results makes supporting the visitors at 10/9 (Matchbook) quotes tricky.
On Tuesday night an injury-time equaliser from new £9m hitman Jordan Rhodes was required at lowly MK Dons and now Middlesbrough have managed just two points from a possible 12 (W0-D2-L2) in league action despite playing three of the current bottom-six.
Defenders Daniel Ayala and George Friend will both miss out again through injury and although Rhodes should be given the chance to make his first start, the promotion-chasers have scored more than a single goal just twice in their last 10 Championship fixtures.
Looking at the Teesiders’ matches since Boxing Day also causes crumbs of concern for travelling supporters. Across their seven games (W3-D2-L2) they’ve accumulated just 22 shots-on-target at an average of 3.14 per-game – that’s country miles below the second-tier average.
Although Ayala and Friend’s absence could hurt, the loan signing of Richie de Laet should keep the backline in decent nick, particularly with the likes of Grant Leadbitter and Adam Clayton patrolling the area in front of the defence in Karanka’s tried, trusted and safety-first 4-2-3-1 formation.
Boro have kept a league-high 16 clean sheets this season and as much as I’d like to take them on here, there’s not enough in Leeds’ favour to get with the Whites.
Top goalscorer Chris Wood remains sidelined and standout midfielder Alex Mowatt’s missed the last four matches too. United may have beaten Middlesbrough in their last three meetings at Elland Road but they’ve managed just four triumphs in 15 on home soil this season and have W1-D4-L3 in their last eight Championship games.
Unusually for a Steve Evans side, the team have been reasonably tight at the back, though. Leeds have leaked just three goals in four and more than once in just four of their previous 16. So with both sides proving tough nuts to crack and a low-scoring encounter on the cards, the 23/10 (BetVictor) draw comes into play.
I’ll stick the draw in the book but I’ll also happily take Netbet’s even-money offer on Under 2 Goals – backing this selection sees our stake returned if exactly two goals are scored, only losing our money if the game features three or more goals.
Leeds have seen Under 2.5 Goals bank in 14 of their last 17 at Elland Road with five of their previous eight on home soil producing fewer than two goals. Twelve of Middlesbrough’s last 13 have fallen below the 2.5 goals line, including each of their most recent seven.
Leeds v Middlesbrough – Draw (23/10 BetVictor)
Leeds v Middlesbrough – Under 2 Goals (1/1 Netbet)
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