Sheffield United vs Leeds | Sunday 27th September 2020, 12:00 | BT Sport
After two straight defeats courtesy of Midlands foe, Sheffield United will be hoping that they can prize their first points of the season away from opposition a little close to home. On Sunday, the Blades welcome White Rose rivals Leeds to Bramall Lane in what will be the Premier Leagues first Yorkshire derby for 19 years.
Leeds have not wasted any time in reacquainting themselves with the English elite scoring seven in their opening two fixtures as they have featured on either side of 4-3 thrillers. The goals may be flowing in the centre of Gods own country but the South remains barren as Chris Wilder's men are the only Premier League side yet to score, confirming the Blades need for a striker.
Sheffield United will be without defensive mainstay John Egan following his straight red at Villa Park- Ethan Ampadu should replace him- and striker Lys Moussett also remains absent due to an obscure foot injury.
Oli Norwood is in contention to return to the side having been dropped last game and Oli Burke is in pole-position to start up top following a commendable performance as a lone striker versus Villa.
Who accompanies him is the question – I expect Wilder will opt for the same front two he chose last game which will see Blades line up in a 3-5-2 formation as follows; Ramesdale; O'Connell, Ampadu, Basham; Stevens, Fleck, Norwood, Berge, Boldock; McGoldrick, Burke.
Pablo Hernandez is sidelined with a groin injury for Leeds which means club record signing Rodrigo Moreno should keep his place in centre midfield as Marcelo Bielsa is expected to name an unchanged team. This would see the Whites line-up in a 4-1-4-1 formation as follows; Meslier; Ayling, Koch, Cooper, Dallas; Phillips; Costa, Klich, Moreno, Harrison; Bamford.
Despite being dubbed the surprise package of last campaign, every man and his dog now knows exactly how Chris Wilder sets his stall out this season. SUFC play 3-5-2 with marauding centre-backs and a holding midfielder, they place huge emphasis on wing-play, overloads and getting crosses in to the box.
The Blades are yet to pick up a point and with their tactical element of surprise diluted there are whispers that they are suffering from second season syndrome. The fact that you can telegraph exactly how they will play reinforces the idea that they have been found out.
However, I do not think the Blades stalling start has been a consequence of their predictability but their lack of potency in-front of goal. Unbelievably, despite not scoring yet -according to Understat – Sheffield United have a higher total xG (1.80) then Leeds (1.72) who have scored seven!
Their superior xG must be down to the good positions that the Blades get themselves into and the openings they create as opposed to the shots they have registered. This is because they have had the fewest shots so far in the Premier League (13) and have only landed three on-target.
The lack of shots is nothing unfamiliar for the Bladesmen however. Last season they were also bottom of the pile for total shots registered (353) and SoT (109) as they averaged just 9.3 shots per-game and 2.9 SoT!
If you are unfamiliar with how Leeds approach games tactically, here are some of their outstanding statistics from last campaign:
- Scored 77 (joint 2nd)
- Conceded 35 (fewest)
- Attempted 1,167 crosses (1st)
- 755 Shots (1st)
- Won possession back x2,667
- Won possession back x208 in final 3rd (3rd)
Bielsa may have to alter his approach given his side have already scored and conceded seven goals in just two EPL games. However, the goals at both ends does elude to the fact that El-Loco has not compromised on his tactics just yet…
One of the most fascinating aspects of Leeds' style of play is the vacation of central areas in and out of possession. When they have the ball, Kalvin Phillips will drop in amongst the centre-backs, their full-backs will provide the width and the wingers and centre midfielders well push right on to the opposition back line dropping into the half spaces to receive the ball when possible.
The overloads on the wings leads to the opposition full backs racking up the tackles. Fulham's full backs attempted a total of 10 tackles with right-back Tete completing three and left-back Joe Bryan completing four.
Out of possession, they leave their five most advanced players to press, the other two midfielders would drop in amongst the backline. This meant the majority of Liverpool and Fulham's attacks came down the flanks. This means that Leeds' full backs accumulate a lot of tackles. So far this season Ayling has completed 10 (6 and 4) and Dallas has completed 12 (7 and 5).
Leeds -1 Shots On-Target Handicap (8/5 Boylesports)
Boylesports are offering Leeds -1 on the Shots On Target Handicap market at 8/5 and this certainly takes appeal with me. Leeds have registered 10 SoT in their opening two fixtures.
Obviously, with such a small sample size it is easy to misinterpret these early statistics but what excites me about Leeds is how clinical they have been; 62.5% of their shots have hit the target.
It is difficult to determine if they will continue to be as clinical for the remainder of the season. In the Championship they averaged 16.4 shots and 5.5 SoT, the higher shot count is a credit to the fact that teams would often deploy a low block.
In the Premier League teams might not give them that respect and therefore they may have fewer shots but more on target, as we have already seen.
Finally, it is also worth noting that despite playing only two games, Leeds have already registered seven more shots on-target then their hosts.
Over 1 Card Each Side (2/1 Bet365)
I am hoping this Yorkshire derby lives up to its hype in terms of blood and thunder and the cards flow as they have in the sides last four meetings. In their recent duels in the Championship their was a total of 22 yellows and one red card awarded with over one card each team landing in all four meetings.
This season, Sheffield United may be struggling to pick up the points but they are not struggling to pick up booking points. All three of their fixtures have seen over one card, they have received a total of five yellows and one straight red. Leeds, on the other hand, have not exactly lived up to their name as of yet, only picking up one card.
The lack of fans has not appeared to affect the number of cards distributed as much as previously anticipated. However, there is no doubt that the toxic atmosphere at Bramall Lane would of indulged this bet and the fact that it will be played in front of an empty stadium is my only concern with this angle.
Stuart Dallas 3+ Tackles (13/8 Ladbrokes)
Leeds' left back has averaged six tackles per-game so far this season and Ladbrokes have him priced at 13/8 to complete three on Sunday. The Blades have prioritised attacks down the right so far this campaign with 43% of attacks coming via George Boldock's flank and compared to 35% on the left.
Robin Koch to score a header (18/1 William Hill)
Centre back Robin Koch has the second highest xG for Leeds this season, second only to Mateusz Klich as the ex-Freiburg man has already registered three shots (1 SoT). Koch averaged 0.9 shots per-game in 33 starts in the Bundesliga last season.
Sheffield United look uncharacteristically weak from set-pieces, already conceding twice from dead-ball situations. With Egan suspended for this, the Blades will be lacking much needed aerial prowess, even more so if Ollie McBurnie doesn’t start.
Sheffield United vs Leeds – Leeds -1 Shots On-Target Handicap (8/5 Boylesports)
Sheffield United vs Leeds – Over One Card Each Side (2/1 Bet365)
Sheffield United vs Leeds – Stuart Dallas 3+ Tackles (13/8 Ladbrokes)
Sheffield United vs Leeds – Robin Koch to score a header (18/1 William Hill)