Newcastle vs Leeds | Friday 17th September 2021, 20:00 | Sky Sports
For the 97th time, Newcastle United and Leeds United square-off with both teams looking to bounce back following a three-goal margin of defeat last time out. Leeds were put to the sword by Liverpool at Elland Road, whilst the Cristiano Ronaldo buzz at Manchester United meant the Magpies were blown away. Both teams are one of only five in the Premier League still in search of their maiden victory of the season.
Seeing Newcastle sitting in a lowly 19th position, albeit only four matches into the campaign, is something Steve Bruce will have dreaded. He is very much aware of the pressure upon him from supporters, and the only way he really has a chance of easing that is simply to win games of football. The Toon Army possess the worst defensive record in the league, so facing a Leeds side that beat them 5-2 over last Christmas could be giving Bruce some sleepless nights.
Albeit a few seasons ago, Newcastle did prove that they can raise their game at home against the big clubs. Victories over Man Utd, Chelsea and a draw with Man City hints that if they really get the crowd behind them then they could get that first win.
Leeds are favourites to win this game, which is understandable in one sense, but I don’t think this would necessarily feel like a shock if Newcastle to win, regardless of recent performance levels. Marcelo Bielsa’s side are very much all-or-nothing, especially on the road. Whilst they drew their previous away match at Burnley, that was their first away league draw since returning to the Premier League. An open game is expected, so Friday’s hosts will get opportunities.
Leeds have been in the spotlight in recent days following the whole Harvey Elliott-Pascal Struijk situation, and whilst the club did appeal this ban, it has not been successful. Bielsa could elect to freshen up his side anyway, and Dan James could be in line for his full debut after appearing off the bench in the Liverpool clash.
Bruce has shown preference for a three/five at the back this season, and that could suit them well given they’ll certainly play a counter attacking game, and whilst that may seem negative at home, it is just inevitable that Leeds should see more of the ball.
The Whites did the double over Newcastle last season, but I still don’t think they’re necessarily worth to be as short as they are. Yes, if they turn up and play to their max then you’d expect them to win, but I touched on above about how they will concede chances, and I just can’t get around that. We know Illan Meslier is going to have a busy night one way or another.
However, I think it is probably wise to swerve the 1×2 market overall, as it isn’t as if Freddie Woodman has had little to do in the Newcastle goal in their opening matches. In fact, he has been the busiest keeper of the lot in the league, with Newcastle unproudly sitting top of the Expected Goals Against (xGA) column, with Leeds positioned 16th in that category.
You’d suspect goals should arrive in this game on that basis, but that depends on chances being taken, and both teams are low down in the Expected Goals For (xGA) tally, making this a very difficult game to call.
Something to consider though is Leeds did win five of their six Premier League games last season when away favourite, and drew on the other occasion. On the flip side, Newcastle won just three of 15 when home underdog, so you can half understand why the market is as it is for this one.
Taking all this into account, I’m going to stick with my yellow card theme for this one. You’d suspect Javier Manquillo to retain his place in the Newcastle right wing back position after his goal at Old Trafford, and with Leeds being a big threat in the wide areas I think 5/1 (Bet365) on him to pick up a card represents decent value.
Nothing jumps out to me on the Leeds booking front. Kalvin Phillips would as he’ll look to break up counter attacks but these days you won’t get rich backing him to be carded!
Therefore, a final booking recommendation goes on Newcastle’s Jamaal Lascelles at 4/1 (Bet365), which is another decent price. He should be doing a lot of defending and given some of the prices for other players priced up in this market, this is the only other one which potentially stands out.