CHAMPIONSHIP specialist Vince Blissett (@Vince_RFC) shares his verdict from Sunday's contest between newly-promoted Bolton and Leeds.
Bolton v Leeds | Sunday 6th August 2017, 16:30 | Sky Sports
The opening weekend of Championship concludes at the stadium in the best setting of the 24 as Bolton host Leeds.
Set in the Lancashire hills – albeit miles away from Bolton itself – the Macron is a visual treat on approach. The approach Leeds will bring once on the pitch though is an unknown…
All change at Elland Road
It’s all change with new owners and a new manager in Thomas Christiansen taking the reigns. He brings a good record with him from Cyprus but this is a different ball game.
The Dane has brought in a number of young attackers from around Europe, all of whom are pretty unknown. How Christiansen sets up the team and how they’ll gel together is a bit of a guessing game for now, which makes predicting them tricky.
What is known is that the defence is weaker than last season. Charlie Taylor has departed and more importantly, so has Kyle Bartley. Pontus Jansson took many of the plaudits last season but it was Bartley that really shone – he’s been replaced by young Matthew Pennington on-loan from Everton and he’ll partner Liam Cooper as Jansson carries over a suspension.
A young central defence (although talented) along with a reshuffled backline only adds to the doubts.
Bolton have had their own troubles over the summer with a transfer embargo limiting them to signing free agents and loans. They’ve done a decent job in recruiting though, bringing in experience at the back and goalscorers up front.
If the Trotters can get the service to Adam Le Fondre, Adam Armstrong, Sammy Ameobi, Gary Madine and Aaron Wilbraham, they should be capable of scoring the goals they need.
Karacan the key
The key to keeping away from a relegation battle will be Jem Karacan in the middle of the park. Having come through the Reading academy, Karacan won a Championship winners medal and being club captain he’ll be chomping at the bit for another well deserved crack at the league.
Unfortunately Karacan suffered a serious injury against Leeds, which he’s never really recovered from. A dream move to Galatasaray didn’t work out and he spent most of last season without a club until Bolton gave him a chance.
He’s too good to be playing for Bolton for long but while he is they’ll get 100% effort and may just be the difference between relegation and safety.
The betting angle
With all the uncertainty surrounding Leeds, I’m keen on having Bolton onside. With just three defeats on home soil last season they’ll be looking to carry that home form into this season.
Leeds, on other hand, roll over some end of season form with just one win from the last seven and are without a victory in six on their travels.
Again, I’m playing it safe seeing as it’s early in the season and backing Bolton draw no bet stands out at 42/41 (Unibet). It proved the sensible play with Derby in the opener and hopefully Bolton can go one better.
Bolton v Leeds – Bolton draw no bet (42/41 Unibet)