Duels between strikers and keepers hold key to Boro Leeds clash
Leeds United have won at the Riverside on three of their last four visits to Middlesbrough, but there is also a violent recent history to this fixture.
The previous five encounters have contained six red cards, so don’t expect this lunchtime Championship offering to end with XI men a side.
Brian McDermott’s men are 14/5 shots to earn yet another win on Teesside despite losing just once in the last 11 meetings.
Boro, managed by Jose Mourinho disciple Aitor Karanka, start odds-on at 19/20 to move level on points with the Whites. It’s 5/2 for a draw.
Championship top-scorer Ross McCormack makes for an interesting subplot here. Middlesbrough tabled several bids for his services last summer only to see them knocked back by Leeds.
McCormack has since torn up the second-tier, scoring 22 league goals in 30 games, and been made United captain. Five have come in his last four, so back the Scot at 5/4 to net anytime here.
That fine form contrasts sharply with the Boro attack, which has failed to score in each of their last five outings. As a result, Karanka’s club won none of those matches, yet have only lost at home once in all competitions since Christmas.
January acquisition Lee Tomlin can finally make his bow, however, after completing the ban he picked up in his last game for Peterborough United. He is 7/4 to mark his Middlesbrough debut with a goal. Danny Graham, who has netted just once all season, may make way for Tomlin.
This clash might alternatively be a tale of two keepers. Veteran Irish stopper Shay Given will play his last game for Boro here before he returns to parent club Aston Villa. He is 7/5 to sign off by keeping a clean sheet.
Leeds are set to hand loan capture Jack Butland his bow because of injuries to Paddy Kenny and Jamie Ashdown. The 20-year-old England cap is at the opposite end of his career to Given, but odds of 3/1 on the visitors sealing a shut-out and 11/2 on the Whites winning to nil are tempting.
In other team news, right-sided United player Sam Byram is doubtful with a hamstring problem. Winger Cameron Stewart is set to return after missing the loss at Brighton. Middlesbrough defender Ben Gibson, meanwhile, is suspended and Jonathan Woodgate could play against his former club.
Victory for Leeds here will take them five points off the play-offs with 15 games to go. You can back them at 12/1 for a top-six finish.