Leeds come into this game full of confidence after the change in formation at the start of 2015 has returned only the solitary loss to Brentford. A much improved defence, where there seems a greater level of consistency and cohesion since the arrival of Sol Bamba will give Leeds increased confidence for their trip to Teeside where they will encounter a strong Middlesbrough team that Aitor Karanka has assembled that has skill and assurance in every position on the field. This game could well be a defining point for Leeds’ season’s and further intentions should they be able to get a positive result from the fixture.
Leeds’ last starting line-up [4-2-3-1 formation]
Silvestri (GK); Defence: C Taylor (LB), Bamba (DC), Bellusci (DC), Wooton (RB); Midfield: Austin (DM), Murphy (DM), Mowatt (LM), Cook (CM), Byram (RM); Attack: Morison (ST);
Substitutes: S Taylor, Berardi, Sloth, Adryan, Sharp, Antenucci, Çani
Leeds United team news
Leeds are set to welcome back club captain Liam Cooper who is fit to play after missing the last two games through a hip injury. This will present Neil Redfearn with a selection problem as both Sol Bamba and Giuseppe Bellusci had solid games in the time that he [Cooper] was out of the team. Leeds also gave some of their fringe players (Dario del Fabro, Casper Sloth, Brian Montengro, Adryan and Edgar Çani) a run out in an under 21 Development squad game during the week. Of these players, Adryan had a good game and showed some flashes of Brazilian magic alongside some steel and determination at winning the ball from the opposition. Dario del Fabro also impressed in his central defensive role, where he looked confident and assured.
Leeds United away performance
Leeds currently sit 13th in the overall Championship table with 38 points from their 31 games (1.23 points p/game). However, if you only consider ‘away performance’ (games played away from home) then Leeds drop 4 places to 17th in the Championship with a tally of 13 points from their 15 games (0.87 points p/game). This return doesn’t, however, take into account the recent improvement in Leeds United’s form since changing the tactical formation that they use. Over the last 6 games in the Championship, Leeds are the 4th ranked ‘form’ side overall with 13 points being gained from a possible 18 on offer (2.17 points p/game – 72% of available points. When playing teams from the top half of the table away from home Leeds are 17th ranked in the Championship with only 6 points from 9 games (0.67 points p/game). They have scored 16 goals on their travels and conceded a total of 27 goals for a goal difference total of -11. Attacking-wise away from home, Leeds have scored 16 goals (1.07 goals p/game) with them scoring at least 1 goals on 12 occasions (1 goals – 9 times, 2 goals – 2 times, 3 goals – 1 time). Defensively away from home, Leeds sit as the 19th ranked Championship team with them conceding only 27 goals in 15 away games (1.80 goals p/game) and keeping only 1 clean sheet. Leeds have conceded more than 1 goal away from home on eight occasions this season (conceded 1 goal – 6 times, conceded 2 goals – 5 times, conceded 3 goals – 1 time, conceded 4 goals – 2 times).
Leeds’ last 5 away games: vs Reading (0-2 win), vs Huddersfield (1-2 win), vs Bolton (1-1 draw), vs Derby (2-0 loss), vs Nottingham Forest (1-1 draw): 8 points from 15 (53% total points available); scored 6, conceded 5, goal difference +1.
Middlesbrough home performance
Middlesbrough sit comfortable at the top of the Championship table with 60 points from their 31 games (1.94 points p/game – 64.50% points available). When only considering ‘home performance’, Middlesbrough rank 3rd in the Championship with 31 points from their 15 home games (2.07 points p/game). However, Middlesbrough are the Championship’s leading home ‘form team’ (performances over last six games) with them having 16 points from the last six home games (2.67 points p/game). Against teams in the bottom half of the Championship table (Leeds sit just in there in 13th place), Middlesbrough rank 9th with 13 points from 6 home games against ‘bottom half’ teams with 13 points from these 6 games (2.17 points p/game). Attacking-wise at The Riverside Stadium, Middlesbrough have scored 29 goals (1.93 goals p/game) with them scoring at least 2 goals on 10 occasions (2 goals – 6 times, 3 goals – 2 times, 4 goals – 2 times). Defensively at home, Middlesbrough sit as the 1st ranked Championship team with them conceding only 9 goals in 15 home games (0.60 goals p/game) and keeping 8 clean sheets. Middlesbrough have only conceded more than 1 goal at home on one occasion this season, when they conceded 3 goals (8 clean sheets, conceded 1 goal – 6 times, conceded 3 goals – 1 time).
Middlesbrough last 5 home games: vs Charlton (3-1 win), vs Cardiff (2-1 win), vs Huddersfield (2-0 win), vs Nottingham Forest (2-0 win), vs Derby (2-0 win): 15 points from 15 (100% total points available); scored 11, conceded 2, goal difference +9.
Leeds United vs Middlesbrough – expectations
I have a feeling that this can go either of two ways: Leeds will keep it close in a game in which they battle and scrap well, frustrating what is a class side or the class of Middlesbrough will overwhelm Leeds who, after a game start, will crumble at the feet of the Championship leaders. I am prone to believe the latter will be more true and that Leeds will struggle to contain a rampant Middlesbrough side that ooze class in all areas. Middlesbrough are Scrooge-like mean in defence at home and this is shown by their avaricious nature in only conceding 9 goals at the Riverside this season; conversely Leeds have struggled to score at times away from home and have eked out low-scoring wins.
The verdict? I honestly cannot see Leeds getting anything out of this game other than a McDonalds on the way back down the motorway. Middlesbrough’s combination of free-scoring, mean defence and home form will constrict a Leeds side who can battle well but may prove too lightweight in this game.
Prediction: Middlesbrough 2 – Leeds 0
Current match odds (from Sky Bet): Leeds 5/1, Draw 3/1, Middlesbrough 8/15; Middlesbrough 2 – Leeds 0 odds 5/1