Leeds To Take Advantage Of Tired Boro
Middlesbrough v Leeds
After the disappointment of an FA Cup last-16 defeat to Arsenal, Middlesbrough refocus attentions on their primary objective this season.
A run of five straight Championship wins came to an end for Middlesbrough with a 1-1 draw against Birmingham in midweek. Aitor Karanka’s men were required to play 47 minutes of the game with 10 men following goalkeeper Dimi Konstantopoulos’s red card just before the interval, but did manage to salvage an important point after going 1-0 behind.
The result means that Boro go into this Saturday’s lunchtime kick-off as Championship leaders and one point ahead of both Derby and Bournemouth.
Patrick Bamford scored the equaliser at St Andrews on Wednesday night and in doing so joined captain Grant Leadbitter as the club’s top scorer, each with 12 goals.
There is also genuine reason for optimism at Leeds United at the moment. A run of four wins from five and just one defeat in seven may still be too little to reignite promotion aspirations for this season, but they do at least offer hope for next season and suggest that they may have found the right man for the job in manager Neil Redfearn.
Three of the last four wins have come with the accompaniment of a clean sheet, with one of those victories being against high-flying Bournemouth.
Midfielder Luke Murphy has scored three goals in his last six appearances – his only goals of the season – but top scorer Mirco Antenucci has fallen out of favour and is without a goal since early December.
This will be Boro’s third game in six days and having played more than half of Wednesday’s game with only 10 men there could be some tired legs in the camp.
One enforced change will be between the sticks where Tomas Mejias is expected to deputise for the suspended Konstantopoulos. Mustapha Carayol is available again but Daniel Ayala remains sidelined with a thigh injury.
Liam Cooper has returned to first team training for Leeds, but it is unlikely to be thrown straight into the first team, while Lewis Walters, Edgar Cani and Adryan have all been involved in recent games with the development squad and are pushing for a starting berth.
A solitary Billy Sharp goal gave Leeds all three points in a narrow win at Elland Road earlier in the season, while neither side were able to break the deadlock during last season’s game at the Riverside.
Six of the last eight meetings have finished with fewer than three goals and none of the last ten have seen more than three goals. History suggests this will be a relatively low-scoring game.
You have to think that a third game in six days will have some sort of negative effect on Boro, especially given that they have won neither of the previous two. Therefore, against a Leeds side also in good form, I can’t be tempted by the paltry 11/20 being offered about a home win here. Instead take Leeds or Draw at odds of 6/4 in the Double Chance market.
Goals are unlikely to be plentiful and so the 20/23 about Under 2.5 carries plenty of appeal, while Draw/Under 2.5 Goals can be backed at odds of 19/5 in the Match Result and Total Goals market.