Bristol City v Leeds
Sunday August 4, 16:30
Live on Sky Sports
Bristol City eyeing up a promotion push
Bristol City have enjoyed year-on-year progress since Lee Johnson took the reigns, and following a flirtation with the play-offs, the Robins look well set to challenge the top-six this term. The club have displayed their ambitions with a flurry of eye-catching summer additions, although ongoing speculation surrounding Adam Webster's future continues to hog the headlights.
Webster's involvement in Sunday's showdown remains uncertain, although City are well stocked in the defensive department to cope in the short-term. Tomas Kalas and England U21 left-back Jay Da Silva made their loan moves permanent during the off-season, whilst Nathan Baker and Jack Hunt are competent and dependable Championship operators.
Bailey Wright and Baker are both expected to shake-off knocks to feature, although Korey Smith is a confirmed absentee. Attacking playmaker Sammie Szmodics could be in-line for a debut Robins appearance behind central striker behind striker Famara Diedhiou, with Daniel Bentley anticipated to take the gloves between the sticks after his switch from Brentford.
Leeds to alter their shape for opener?
Leeds were the most dominant team in the Championship last year, finishing top of the tree across all the major performance data metrics. The Whites' set seriously high standards throughout the campaign but a spectacular and gut-wrenching collapse in the final fortnight saw Marcelo Bielsa's men miss out on promotion twice with the finishing line in sight.
Bielsa has committed his immediate future to the West Yorkshire club's cause and has worked his players hard during summer training camps with a view to a potential system switch. The Argentine has been flicking between his favoured 4-1-4-1 formation and a new look 3-3-1-3 that includes a diamond shape in midfield as opposed to the usual flat set-up.
Captain Liam Cooper has partnered Gaetano Berardi and new loanee Ben White in a centre-back axis of three. Marquee summer signing Helder Costa and Pablo Hernandez have featured either side of Patrick Bamford in a front three with Mateusz Klich offered the freedom of the no.10 role. Luke Ayling, Kemar Roofe and Tyler Roberts are unavailable.
Visitors favourites to start with a success
Bristol City 3.002/1 have won just one of their last 14 league games against Leeds (W1-D2-L11), losing both matches last season against the Whites without finding the net. Those defeats contributed to a concerning 50% loss rate for the Robins in 2018/19 against clubs that finished the campaign above them in the Championship standings.
Lee Johnson's men were inconsistent and projected largely as a mid-table team throughout last term - and whilst the overall outlook remains positive for the Ashton Gate club coming into 2019/20 - the speculation surrounding star centre-half Adam Webster could easily have a negative impact on their curtain-raising clash on Sunday afternoon.
Marcelo Bielsa is the first Leeds 2.447/5 manager to take charge of the club in back to back season-starters since 2011 and will be hopeful of hitting the ground running, as the Whites did 12 months ago with three wins on the spin. The visitors returned W7-D3-L3 at sides occupying 14th and above, and posted unrivalled numbers across all major metrics.
Oppose goals at Ashton Gate
Over the past 20 seasons of Championship football, 58% of opening weekend encounters have featured fewer than three goals. With Under 2.5 Goals offered at 1.8910/11, it's almost appealing to blindly back a low-scoring match-up based on the long-term historical trends.
However, the case for a low-scoring contest is strengthened when viewing the two teams' records last term. Collectively, the pair delivered Under 2.5 Goals in 57% of their combined fixtures with the same 57% return for opposing goals when solely looking at the duos respective home/away records.
Both clubs were amongst the EFL's top third for Expected Goals (xG) against, as well as limiting opponents attempts from inside the penalty box, and whilst key players in each team's defensive set-up may have departed by Sunday, I'm happy following the numbers that point towards a potential tight tussle.