Leeds continue their battle for the Premier League with a visit to Cardiff on Sunday. Tom Carnduff picks out two best bets.
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Cardiff v Leeds (Sky Sports Football, 1200 BST)
Leeds United continue their title bid away at Cardiff on Sunday, with the slight advantage of knowing the results of both Fulham and West Brom's fixtures the day before.
The Whites will have one eye on the title but the main focus remains on securing promotion back to the Premier League. A Fulham slip-up at home to Brentford could potentially present them with an opportunity to move ten points clear of the play-off positions.
There will always be some doubt in the back of the mind given Leeds' collapse at the back-end of last season but this campaign feels different and they are a side who have clearly benefitted from extending time under Marcelo Bielsa's guidance.
They will be without the influential Pablo Hernandez for this one after Bielsa confirmed that he will be out with a short-term injury. The positive for Leeds is that he will return to training next week. In nine games without Hernandez this season, Leeds have managed to pick up points in seven of them.
Leeds are still well placed for victory here. Bielsa's strict fitness plans have ensured that they have maintained usual levels throughout the duration of lockdown and prior preparation allowed them to implement individual training programmes on the day that it was announced football would stop.
Cardiff hold promotion aspirations of their own and are a part of a hefty pack of teams chasing a spot in the top-six. They famously came from 3-0 down to draw 3-3 in the previous meeting between these two and would likely settle for a point again.
Leeds are typically a side who travel well though and sit second in the away charts to West Brom. If the away win pattern from the Bundesliga carries over into England, that will boost their already decent chances of success in south Wales.
One player who certainly caught the eye prior to the break was Luke Ayling. The Leeds full-back netted three goals in the five games prior to the stoppage and has fully embraced Bielsa's emphasis on his full-backs contributing significantly in attack.
He's also posted a huge total of 12 shots across his last five games; all of which were wins with clean sheets. Even after a lengthy spell without competitive football, Bielsa will want his Leeds side to pick up where they left off and continue to play in their usual fashion.
That should mean opportunities for Ayling going forward. His season heatmap shows he is in the opposition half as much as he is in his own and that's down to the attacking role he has to play.
At best odds of 11/1, even with general odds floating around 9/1 and 10/1, the value is certainly there in backing Ayling to net anytime in this one. As a bit of a 'safety net', it's also worth a small play on his shot on target odds of 11/4. He's had five shots on target across his last six fixtures.
We don't know how teams will react to this enforced break but we can only really go on what we have seen throughout the course of the season. Cardiff boss Neil Harris has said that Leeds deserve to be top of the table and not too many will disagree.
The Asian Handicap has Leeds at -0.75 which indicates that the money has committed to an away win here. However, even with Leeds' lofty position, the first weekend back could see a low-scoring affair.
Seven of Leeds' last eight games have seen under 2.5 goals and we could expect similar here. There may be some temptation in the 7/4 available on Leeds -1 but there's too much risk attached to a short-ish price when we haven't seen them play since the beginning of March.
Instead, it's worth siding with Ayling to be among the attacking opportunities with two good prices on offer.
Score prediction: Cardiff 0-1 Leeds (Sky Bet odds: 13/2)
Best bet: Luke Ayling to score anytime at 11/1
Odds correct at 1600 BST (18/06/20)
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