EFL Championship Betting Preview: Leeds United vs. Sheffield United – Saturday, March 16, 2019
Matchup at a Glance
When: Saturday, March 16, 2019, at 07:30 AM
Where: Elland Road, Leeds, England.
Odds: Leeds United +105, Draw +220, Sheffield United +235 @ Intertops
Leeds United take on Sheffield United in a thrilling clash at Elland Road which should be one of the biggest games of the ongoing Championship season, with the two Yorskshire giants chasing automatic promotion to the Premier League.
Both sides currently occupy second and third place, respectively, with just two points separating them.
With nine games left, a win for the hosts will put them in pole position to claim automatic promotion to the Premier League.
Defender Pontus Jansson even described it: “The biggest game of our lives”, and also called on the fans to fill the stadium one hour before kick-off, which was very well received by the Leeds supporters who are eager for Premier League football after a decade-and-a-half of waiting.
Sheffield United will cover the short distance to Leeds after an important 2-0 win in midweek against Brentford. Even though it was quite anticipated, The Blades had to sweat for it as they were down to 10 men after just 35 minutes – Gary Madine was shown a straight red card. Nevertheless, Chris Wilder's side not only increased their lead but they also kept another clean sheet.
Head-to-Head Stats (H2H)
Leeds United were winners in the last meeting between these two sides at Bramall Lane in Sheffield, on December 1, with Pablo Hernandez scoring the only goal in the closing stage of the game. It was their first victory at Sheffield since April 1992, when Leeds won the league.
Furthermore, the Whites have ended a three-match losing streak against Sheffield United with the aforementioned victory and Marcelo Bielsa will hope to become the first Leeds manager to do double against their Yorkshire rivals since the Sheffield-born Howard Wilkinson during the triumphant 1991-92 campaign.
Leeds United – Team News
Leeds United can go five points clear of the playoffs if they record another victory on Saturday but that's not the only point here. The psychological boost right before the international break can be crucial for the final sprint of their campaign but Marcelo Bielsa's men should play their best soccer if they want to beat Sheffield United for the second time this season.
Leeds showed lack of concentration for a moment in end of February when they surprisingly lost a game in hand at QPR (1-0), foregoing a chance to climb up to the top of the league. However, their reaction since then has been typical of Bielsa’s tenure: three wins in a row, eight goals scored against none conceded.
The Whites are coming after three consecutive wins over West Bromwich Albion (4-0 home), Bristol City (1-0 away) and Reading (3-0 away), and if the one against Reading was the latest achievement, both victories against two other promotion-chasing sides have returned the swagger.
In addition to Eunan O'Kane's long-term injury, Marcelo Bielsa won't be able to call on injured pair Adam Forshaw and top goalscorer Kemar Roofe (14 goals), but promising youngster Jack Clarke could return to the squad for the first time since the 1-1 draw at Middlesbrough in early February.
Surprisingly, Roofe now seems to find himself in a position where regaining his starting spot when he does return from injury is not going to be easy by any means. Patrick Bamford, despite some missed opportunities in Tuesday's win at Reading, demonstrated his clinical touch with three goals in the previous two victories and already has six goals on his tally.
Polish midfielder Mateusz Klich (8 goals and 7 assists in 37 starts) and Spanish veteran Pablo Hernandez (10 goals, 11 assists), who netted a brace in midweek, are two other influential players in the home side.
Sheffield United – Team News
Following a goalless draw in the Sheffield derby earlier this month, United are surging under Chris Wilder with six wins in eight matches, remaining unbeaten since nearly two months – a 2-0 loss at Swansea. Moreover, they conceded in just one of those eight matches – when Aston Villa came from 3-0 down with eight minutes left to draw with the Blades. They have not conceded a goal since then, winning five of the last six games.
Sheffield United's defensive improvement is obvious and Chris Wilder's men have the second best defensive record in the league – after Middlesbrough – with 34 goals conceded.
Chris Wilder lost his winter signing Gary Madine to an early red card on Tuesday but clung on with their fingernails to beat Brentford 2-0, denying Leeds any additional space to breathe. Except Madine's suspension, Wilder can't rely on the long-term absentee Jake Wright, while Kieron Freeman is a doubt.
However, the Sheffield United boss will most likely reintroduce his most fruitful forwards to the starting lineup as they were both on the bench in the midweek round. Billy Sharp (22 goals) and David McGoldrick (12 goals) are set to feature from the outset at Leeds.
Possible Starting Lineups of Leeds United and Sheffield United
Leeds United: Kiko Casilla – Luke Ayling, Pontus Jansson, Liam Cooper, Ezgjan Alioski – Kalvin Phillips – Pablo Hernandez, Tyler Roberts, Mateusz Klich, Jack Harrison – Patrick Bamford. (4-1-4-1)
Sheffield United: Dean Henderson – Jack O'Connell, Chris Basham, John Egan – George Baldock, John Fleck, Kieran Dowell, Oliver Norwood, Enda Stevens – Billy Sharp, David McGoldrick. (3-5-2)
Despite their good form lately, Sheffield United won just one of their last five away games and a draw at Elland Road should be considered an acceptable outcome, although the Blades will be keen to leapfrog Leeds before the international break, which can only happen if they win.
Leeds United, on the other hand, will try to embrace the fine opportunity they have. There is already a generation that doesn't remember Leeds' Premier League stability from the 90's and the early 00's but Marcelo Bielsa has turned them into real promotion contenders.
The game looks really unpredictable despite Leeds' home advantage and we can see both teams scoring.