FOOTBALL LEAGUE fanatic Ryan Wilson (@ryanjameswillo) shares his verdict on Friday night's live Championship fixture between Leeds and Middlesbrough.
Leeds v Middlesbrough | Friday 31st August 2018, 19:45 | Sky Sports
High-flying Leeds United face their toughest challenge yet as first meets second in the Championship on Friday evening.
Thus far, highly regarded tactician Marcelo Bielsa has taken to English football like a duck to water, but the visit of Tony Pulis and his rigid, organised and highly efficient Middlesbrough side could be his toughest challenge yet.
Whites fans are well within their rights to get excited after witnessing some truly exhilarating football, outscoring all challengers. Boro are bringing the division’s tightest defence to Yorkshire, however, clinging onto a remarkable four league clean sheets in a row.
Elland Road hasn’t been a happy hunting ground for the Teesiders in recent years, with four losses and one draw in their last five trips. Friday’s clash of the titans looks incredibly hard to call from a match result perspective, but I believe there’s value to be had.
Defences look strong
Boro gave us a taste of what to expect in their tussle with West Brom last week, allowing the Baggies ample possession but severely limiting any dangerous efforts on goal. In that match, Pulis’s side saw just 38% possession in a deep 3-5-2 formation but it proved an effective set-up as they stole the three points in a 1-0 win.
Generally, in most sports, I favour the best defence against the best offence when it comes to betting on these crunch matches. All the pressure is on a Leeds side overachieving in comparison to pre-season expectations. Bielsa’s lot must remain focused throughout the 90 minutes, staying particularly alert against set pieces and counter-attacks as they attempt to breach the Boro backline.
Ultimately, I think Tony Pulis’s proven method of keeping things tight will dominate this encounter and I’m confident in backing Under 2.5 goals at a price of 93/100 (Marathon).
If one man can make the difference here, Kemar Roofe is undoubtedly that man. The former Oxford forward improved drastically last season, increasing his goal tally from three to 11 in six less games.
Despite spending big on Patrick Bamford, Roofe is Bielsa’s main man to lead the line and he’s repaid the faith with four goals in five games already. Leeds are averaging a third highest league tally of 5.4 shots on target per game, while Roofe is averaging 2.8 shots per game, the fifth best tally in the division
Leeds have scored 12 of their 14 goals from open play, while both of Boro’s goals conceded in the opening game against Milwall also came from open play. If you’re looking for a bigger price for entertainment purposes, Roofe is brimming with confidence and is currently one of the league’s best strikers.
Roofe's 11/2 to score first and 9/5 to score anytime (Betway); back him at small stakes to be the game’s differential.