Leeds v Rotherham
EFL Championship. Kick-Off: Saturday 18th August, 3.00pm.
Leeds United are no strangers to blinding starts to the season. During the 2017/18 campaign, Leeds stood at the top of the table as of the 23rd September 2017 under the newly-installed Thomas Christiansen. The Yorkshire club had just seen off Ipswich in a 3-2 thriller and there was much excitement around promotion prospects, both with the fans and in the media at the time.
Things quickly derailed for the club from there on in, however. Confidence-sapping defeats to Cardiff (3-1), Sheffield Wednesday (3-0) and Wolves (4-1) in the following months signalled the fading away of Leeds' promotion push, and with it, Chrisiansen's reign.
Here we are in another season and under another new manager, the hugely experienced and revered Argentine Marcelo Bielsa. Leeds fans would be forgiven for feeling some deja vu even at this early stage. Leeds have made an excellent start to the season after just two games played, with maximum points. There are parallels with last season for Leeds, even at this early stage and the club and their fans appear to be quietly confident, without getting overly carried away.
Leeds Performance Levels
Almost as important as the results themselves, is the significance of the actual performances themselves. Winning ugly may well be something Leeds may have to call upon throughout the lengthy Championship season, however so far they have absolutely blitzed all opposition put in front of them.
It appears Bielsa's well-known coaching style of fast pressing and quick transitions between defence to attack is a match made in heaven for the squad he inherited. Leeds have an abundance of pacey, physical players such as Luke Ayling, Pontus Jansson, Samuel Saiz, Kalvin Phillips, Ezgjan Alioski and Kemar Roofe as well as the recent addition of Patrick Bamford from Middlesborough and the return of Mateusa Klich from a loan spell at Utrecht. This kind of squad is perfectly matched to Bielsa's tactical plan and it appears that as long as everyone is on board, then Leeds will be a serious force this season.
Leeds have been blowing sides away early on in their recent matches, with the prolific pole ‘Klich' scoring within 15 mins and 5 mins against Stoke City and Derby County respectively. The Yorkshire club have not let off the gas despite being a goal to the good, and have proceeded to add a second goal before half-time in all 3 of their matches this term (including their midweek EFL Cup exploits). These stats point to the possibility of early goals at home to Rotherham this weekend.
Newly-promoted Rotherham had an inhospitable welcome to their new division with a 5-1 thumping at the hands of Brentford. The Millers were just not up to the level of Brentford, as was accepted by boss Paul Warne post-match. A last-gasp winner against Ipswich, against the run of play, was most welcome for Warne's men last Saturday and shows the determination the side has.
A 3-1 EFL Cup win on Tuesday night against Wigan, with a double coming from Jamie Proctor, who appears to have a penchant for scoring in the EFL Cup, would undoubtedly have further garnered some positive optimism within the squad.
Can Rotherham continue their recent spell of results at Elland Road this weekend? In betting terms the 2-5 odds (Ladbrokes) is the strong indicator that says no. I can see Leeds continuing with their early demolition jobs in games and fans will certainly not hinder this outcome materialising. I feel confident enough in what I have seen of Leeds to believe they can make this 4 games in a row where they start early and proceed to lead at both half-time and full-time. I also think the likelihood of Leeds scoring 2+ in the first half alone is also worth taking on.
The bet that first appeals is ‘Over 0.5 First Half Home Team Goals' at 4-7 (Ladbrokes). This can also be easily placed into Saturday Accas. The next bet which appeals is ‘First Half Result, Leeds', at 19-20 (Ladbrokes). I can again see this Leeds side hitting the net early on and holding their position against the Championship newcomers.
For further value on the day, I see ‘First Half Leeds Total Goals 2+' at 29-10 (Ladbrokes) as having a strong chance, based on this landing in their previous 3 matches this season. For even more value, ‘Leeds to Score 4+ Goals' at healthy 4-1 odds (Ladbrokes) looks a possibility. I really do see Rotherham struggling here today much alike how they were overpowered against a similarly pacey team in the shape of Brentford just a few weeks ago.
For a ‘Bonkers bet' I would also not discourage the ‘Leeds to Score 5+ Goals' bet, at a huge 11-1 (Ladbrokes). If the Bees managed this goal line just a few weeks ago, then envisaging a confident Leeds outfit also achieving this, as an early statement of intent this season, is not completely out of the ordinary. I can see this game being a highly profitable one for punters.