CHAMPIONSHIP specialist Vince Blissett (@Vince_RFC) shares his verdict from Saturday's contest as newly-promoted Sheffield United travel to recently relegated Middlesbrough.
Middlesbrough v Sheffield United | Saturday 12th August 2017, 17:30 | Sky Sports
The Championship started in predictably unpredictable fashion last week, which makes doing this nice and easy.
Just the one game on Sky Sports this week with Middlesbrough hosting Sheffield Utd.
That’s Gary Monk’s Middlesbrough these days, of course. An understandable appointment in the short term but long term I’m not so sure he’s the right man. Anyway, he’s been quick to splash the cash to address the problems inherited, namely the lack of goals in the squad.
The other end of the pitch isn’t a problem at all. No team in the bottom half of the Premier League conceded fewer goals than Boro last season. Key to that defensive unit is Ben Gibson and keeping hold of him has to be one of the main priorities for the rest of the transfer window.
Blades are buzzing
Sheffield United took League One by storm last year reaching the 100-point mark and scoring far more goals than anyone else with 92. Obviously, that was against lesser quality defences but they should be able to score enough to keep clear of a relegation battle.
Chris Wilder has gone about his transfer business rather quietly but also in a refreshing way. The Blades have picked up leading players from League’s One and Two in the main and it’s an approach I like.
Indeed goalkeeper and last week’s Man of the Match Jamal Blackman, on-loan from Chelsea was highly impressive for Wycombe last season. It’s early in the season but he may well turn out to be a key player for United.
Week 1 review
Fortunately we aren’t at a complete unknown this week compared to last, which is a big help. Monk got off to a losing start but apart from one horrendous pass from Dani Ayala which gifted a goal away, Wolves hardly created anything of note.
On the flip side Boro also didn’t create a great deal, but when they did they were very good opportunities and at least one could and should have been taken. On home soil you’d hope they’ll engineer a few more opportunities.
Sheffield United, on the other hand, got off to a winning start back in the Championship beating Brentford 1-0 at Bramall Lane but they were fortunate to do so.
On another day the Bees would have won that game and not many people could have grumbled about that considering the chances they had to score.
At the other end, United created chances against a fairly average defence but couldn’t create anything really clear cut.
The betting angle
I’m expecting Boro to want to get off to a flying start on home soil in this one with a fairly comfortable win. If they can keep their defensive record going this season, especially at the Riverside, not many teams will come away with much.
Although it wouldn’t surprise me too much if the Blades sneaked a goal, I can’t envisage them having too many opportunities too.
Middlesbrough’s new attacking trio of Britt Assombalonga, Martin Braithwaite and Ashley Fletcher should get another chance to shine up front. With added support coming from midfield on home turf you’d back the Smoggies to get on the scoresheet against anyone in this division.
Keeping it simple with a Boro win (10/11 Bet365) is an option but I’m going to stretch that slightly as they have every chance to put a few in the net and go with the -1 on the Asian Handicap line at 37/20 (Unibet).
We’ll see our stake returned with a one-goal victory with a triumph by two or more goals for the Teessiders returning profit.
Middlesbrough v Sheffield United – Middlesbrough -1 Asian Handicap (37/20 Unibet)