Broke Bolton could make it tough for big-spenders Leeds
Goals could be scarce in opener
Sky Bet Championship
Sky Sports Football/Main Event, 4.30pm Sunday
If spending clout is the clincher before having a bet on the season-opener at the Macron Stadium, then punters are going to be all over Leeds.
The Whites have splashed the cash this summer in a bid to improve on last season’s playoff near-miss while Bolton have spent buttons courtesy of a transfer embargo.
But money doesn’t necessarily talk and with no guarantees that new Elland Road chief Thomas Christiansen yet knows how to deploy his many investments, this match might not go the way the odds-setters presume.
While Leeds have been rebuilt under Christiansen, with the backing of new owner Andrea Radrizzani, Bolton will go into battle with many of the troops who guided them to the runners-up spot in Sky Bet League One last season.
The best facet of their promoted side was their defence and boss Phil Parkinson, a man renowned for his organisation and lack of risk, has left his defensive unit pretty much unchanged.
If David Wheater and his colleagues can handle last term’s Golden Boot winner, Chris Wood, and if Bolton’s own attack is as tame as it looks, this could easily be a low-scorer. No goalscorer wouldn’t be an absurd bet to have but under 1.5 goals at 21-10 gives an extra bit of leeway.
Eleven of Leeds’ matches last season produced one or no goals. Fifteen (a fraction under 33 per cent) of Bolton’s matches did likewise.
Clearly putting the brakes on Port Vale or Chesterfield is one thing and doing the same to Leeds quite another. But promotion breeds an optimism, and the things they did right last season under an excellent boss need repeating.
They were certainly competitive enough in their final pre-season run-out, a 2-1 defeat by Stoke, and have bolstered their ranks further since then, notably with a pair of promising West Ham youngsters – Josh Cullen and Reece Burke - who Slaven Bilic only let out on loan after plenty of thought.
In attack, Parky has tried to replace the excellent Zac Clough but he’ll probably go to Gary Madine as the lone target man with Adam Le Fondre or Adam Armstrong as alternatives.
None of that trio would worry a top defence, though the Leeds defence is weakened this weekend by Pontus Jansson’s suspension.
That will give Christiansen a headache while further forward the Dane has to figure out which of his many new attacking gems can be integrated. The jury, at this stage, is very definitely out on all of them.
Leeds – who have failed to win any of their last 12 away matches on a Sunday – must hope that a new regime means no hangover from last season’s late slide when no wins in five cost them a shot at promotion. At this stage of the season, it’s hard to judge.
Under 1.5 goals
1pt 2-1 BetBright, BoyleSports, Sky Bet
Bet on this match at Soccerbase.com
Filipe Morais (knee) is unlikely to be involved. Skipper Jay Spearing has signalled he wants to leave.
Centre-back Pontus Jansson is suspended. New midfielder Mateusz Klich is injured.
Leeds are without a win in their last six away league games.