Leeds vs Everton | Wednesday 3rd February 2021, 19:30 | BT Sport
Bielsa-ball is back in full swing after a 3-1 victory over Leicester at the weekend made it back-to-back victories while visitors Everton will be looking to bounce back from a shock home defeat to Newcastle, allowing Callum Wilson a brace to give his team a first win in eleven competitive games.
Three successive defeats prior to their win at the King Power had possibly left Leeds having a nervous look over their shoulders, but those six points in as many days means the men from Yorkshire have now won nine of their 20 EPL matches so far (W9, D2, L9), the highest number of wins from a newly promoted side at that stage of the season in the last 15 years.
A league ranking of fourth with a shots per game average of 14.2 and sixth having scored 35 goals has led to The Peacocks gaining a cavalier reputation for entertaining, fast flowing, expansive football backed up by a total of 27 goals in home matches this campaign, an average of exactly three.
However, 14 of those goals have come in two matches, the 5-2 mauling of Newcastle in December and the opening Elland Road fixture of the season against Fulham, where they were on the right side of the 4-3 scoreline.
Other than in those two victories Leeds have not scored more than one goal in the remaining seven games on home soil and drawing a blank in three.
Having watched Everton in their recent draw with Leicester I certainly can’t see them making the game similar to those Newcastle and Fulham goal-fests, so feel we should look more at the other end of the scale.
I was disappointed with the Toffees who, after taking a 30th minute lead through an exquisite strike from James Rodriguez, clocked up just 35% of possession in inviting on wave upon wave of Leicester pressure – albeit only throwing away the win as a result of another Jordan Pickford howler.
The good news for Evertonians (in my opinion) is England's number one has been ruled out for this clash by his manager citing an injured rib – although it’s up for debate whether Carlo Ancelotti would have seen fit to take his error prone goalkeeper literally out of the firing line regardless.
You would expect replacement Robin Olsen to sense this could be a great opportunity to become first choice on a longer basis especially if he helps his side to a similar result as in his last league appearance – keeping a clean sheet in a 2-0 win at Leicester just before Christmas.
Only top four sides Manchester United (27) and Leicester (23) having gained more points on their travels than Everton (19) who clearly have a very effective game plan away from home under the veteran Italian manager – and they will make it three consecutive away wins if they can add another three points to that total with victory at Elland Road.
With eight of Everton’s last 10 EPL games seeing under 2.5 goals, I was astounded to see odds of 39/29 available in that market – so having gone to Bet 365 for the Asian goal line market and extra comfort of a refund/void for three goals the offer of 5/6 on under 3.0 goals looks a cracking bet to me.
One man key to breaking through that miserly Everton defence, providing he passes a late fitness test after a dead leg, is Patrick Bamford – who’s 15 goal involvements at the 20 EPL game mark is second only to Leeds legend Tony Yeboah (17) way back in 1995/96.
It finally seems, at the age of 27, Bamford is fulfilling the massive potential expected of him as a youngster waiting for a breakthrough at Chelsea with Premier League loans to Crystal Palace, Norwich, Burnley and Middlesbrough producing just one goal from a combined 27 appearances.
What is clear is that with 11 league goals in just 20 appearances he has definitely found his confidence under the legendary Bielsa’s tutelage.
Bamford is behind only Harry Kane (69) for total shots attempted with 68, but has fired the most from inside the penalty area (53) and from open play (59) which shows the levels he is reaching entering the second half of the season.
Despite standing at just over six foot, one area of a striker's craft which is potentially a surprise to see the uncapped man from Grantham excel at is aerially, topping the stats for headed attempts with 21 at an average of just over one per appearance.
Bamford managed a header on target in the aforementioned victory over Leicester and I am willing to take the 11/4 on offer with Betfair that he repeats the trick at least once here.