CHAMPIONSHIP specialist Vince Blissett (@Vince_RFC) shares his verdict from Saturday’s contest between Sunderland and Leeds.
Sunderland v Leeds | Saturday 19th August 2017, 17:30 | Sky Sports
It wouldn’t be a footballing weekend without Leeds being on the box, this time away to Sunderland. A quick look at the listings shows they are on in the same slot again next weekend too – great.
Admittedly Sunderland were shown on the opening weekend, as well as Leeds, but they’re a big club so it’s understandable to a degree.
The Black Cats have started the season in far better than anyone imagined having taken five points from three tricky games. It appears that, for the time being at least, Simon Grayson has got them playing a sensible and simple game plan in their last two away trips.
He doesn’t have the players to play a possession style so is happy to let the opposition have it and play long balls up the pitch. Whether this approach is continued with on home turf isn’t known just yet but a more open, expansive game wasn’t overly convincing on the opening night.
Up front Lewis Grabban and James Vaughan appear to have the potential to be a decent partnership, which isn’t something I ever thought I’d say. Grabban leads the way with three goals whilst Vaughan has won a league high 31 aerial duels.
Add in Aiden McGeady and a very impressive George Honeyman cutting in off the flanks and goals should be aplenty. It’s defensively where the main weakness appears to be right now, failing to keep a league clean sheet.
How Leeds will approach this is also a slight mystery. Away at Bolton on the opening weekend they looked scintillating going forwards and terrible at the back. Two 0-0 draws at Elland Road in the past week against Preston and Fulham were the complete opposite on paper, toothless in attack and solid at the back.
However, if you look closer those two combined for a total of 25 shots on goal and only two on-target so maybe those defensive problems are there and haven’t been capitalised on.
You could make the argument that Leeds’ defence are preventing good chances being given up but I don’t think that’s the case. So far neither Preston nor Fulham have been able to create many clear-cut opportunities and I think better and more clinical attacking units will have success.
In fairness to Leeds they’ve had to reshuffle the defensive line each game due to injuries and that should continue again here. Up front Chris Wood has been off his game on the back of speculation of a big money move and until that’s resolved one way or another, the goal problems could continue.
The betting angle
Goals could be on the cards but there are too many question marks over the visitors at the moment. It could prove to be that being away from the pressures of Elland Road may benefit Leeds but time will tell on that one.
There are similar questions to be asked of Sunderland at home; the atmosphere hasn’t exactly been good for a while now.
Bolton had a fair amount of success with the long ball against Leeds and I’m sure Simon Grayson will be aware of that. As I’ve already mentioned, that’s a tactic that has worked well for Sunderland in the past week and if they carry that on here, they’ve got a good chance of picking up maximum points.
The odds on a home win have dropped considerably in the last 24 hours and I’ve missed the value. The 5/4 widely available isn’t a bad price but Black Type are holding out at 6/4, which is very generous and is the pick here.
Sunderland v Leeds – Sunderland to win (6/4 Black Type)