Sheffield United make the short journey to Leeds to take on Marcelo Bielsa's men, and Jake Pearson has previewed the match, picking out his best bets and score prediction.
The international break potentially came at the wrong time for Leeds, Marcelo Bielsa’s men claiming their first win in four matches away at Fulham just over a fortnight ago, beating Scott Parker’s side 2-1.
Patrick Bamford and Raphinha struck either side of a Joachim Anderson goal, but it was actually Fulham who created the better chances in that match, including a late chance for Ivan Cavaleiro, who arguably should have equalised for the home side.
Given the frenetic pace with which Leeds play every match, it would seem sensible to assume that a break would benefit Bielsa’s men, but they have failed to win both their matches immediately following an international break this season, losing to Wolves in October and drawing with Arsenal in November.
The “Bielsa Burnout” is fairly well documented – Athletic Bilbao, Marseille and Leeds themselves in the 2018/19 season all suffered from the long-term effect of playing such high-octane football – so it will be interesting to see how Leeds cope with the back straight of a crammed Premier League season.
One thing that is not up for speculation though, is the fact that there is still a major issue that needs addressing in terms of Leeds’ defending.
Leeds have the fifth worst defensive record in the Premier League, conceding 47 goals from their 29 fixtures, an average of 1.62 goals per game.
For all that Leeds dominate the majority of their matches, ranking fourth in the possession stats in the Premier League this season, they remain susceptible at the back, particularly aerially, one area that Sheffield United excel in, ranking third in the league in terms of aerial duels won this term.
In Ollie McBurnie also, the Blades have the second most prolific player in the Premier League in terms of aerial duels won, and Leeds will need to be wary of his presence should he get the nod in this fixture.
It was hardly the ideal start for Sheffield United’s caretaker manager Paul Heckingbottom as he saw his side hammered 5-0 by Leicester in their last Premier League fixture, but they showed much more in their 2-0 defeat to Chelsea in the FA Cup two weeks ago, giving everything and coming incredibly close to equalising through a David McGoldrick header, a chance that really should have been converted.
The shackles are off for Sheffield United to some extent now, they are surely condemned to plying their trade in the Championship next season, and this could spell danger for Leeds.
Allowed to show a little more ambition, Sheffield United should offer much more of a threat in this match than they have for much of the season, with a flurry of balls into the Leeds penalty area a surefire way to cause the home side all sorts of problems.
There is a price of 6/4 available for Sheffield United or Draw on the double chance market, but given no two sides in the Premier League have drawn fewer matches than these two this term (Sheffield United 2, Leeds 3), it doesn’t really make sense to hedge in that way.
It is all or nothing with these two sides, and while for much of the season it has been more nothing than all for the Blades, a price of 11/2 for a SHEFFIELD UNITED WIN makes plenty of appeal against a team whose biggest downfall is defending against the exact area in which the Blades’ strength lies.
1pt Sheffield United to win at 11/2 (General)
Score prediction: Leeds 0-1 Sheffield United (Sky Bet odds: 14/1)
Odds correct 1200 BST (31/03/21)
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