Middlesbrough v Leeds
Live on Sky Sports 5
Four successive league wins have lifted Boro to second spot in the table - just three points off leaders Brighton, and it's no surprise that they are as short as 2.285/4 in the Championship Winner market. Even at this early stage of the season there doesn't appear to be any other sides with the strength in depth or quality that Aitor Karanka's squad possesses.
The Teesiders have actually won their last six in all competitions, including Wednesday's comprehensive 3-0 demolition of rivals Wolves. They have scored 15 times in those six games but what makes Karanka's side so dangerous is the way the goals have been shared around the likes of Christian Stuani, David Nugent and Albert Adomah - there's not just one player opposition managers can look to shut down to stop their attacking threat.
Uwe Rosler's men currently sit in 11th place having made a more than satisfactory start to the season themselves. They have lost just the one game (at home to Ipswich), whilst winning twice and drawing five times. Both wins came on the road (at MK Dons and Derby) but their results have illustrated how evenly-matched most of the sides are in this division with no more than one goal separating the sides in any of their eight fixtures.
Rosler has worked hard to make his men a tough nut to crack, starting from the back where skipper Sol Bamba has been very impressive. They also possess a dual attacking threat in Chris Wood (four goals to his name this season) and Marco Antenucci (three).
Boro are no better than 1.558/15 here with the visitors 7.413/2 and the draw available to back at 4.47/2. Although the home side's price is what you would expect following that six-game winning streak it's not one that interests me. As we've said time and again backing sides at odds-on is a risky strategy in this division and there's a couple of reasons I wouldn't want to take that price here.
Firstly the fact that as mentioned Leeds have lost just one of their opening eight games and secondly the visitors have had the whole week to prepare for this one while Boro played in midweek. However, a home win is still the most likely outcome so how to cover both bases? The answer, I think, lies in the Asian Handicap market.
Although not technically a derby this game normally has the intensity of one given the historic rivalry between the two clubs. Leeds will have 3,000 fans in the away end - a fine effort for a Sunday lunchtime kick-off - and have a good record against Boro with three wins from their last four clashes and only ever the one defeat at the Riverside. I think this will be a very tight game and even if Boro do prevail it will be by just the single goal.
Backing Leeds at +1.0 and +1.5 in the Asian Handicap market at 1.738/11 gives us a nice return if they do get a result here and also means we make a small profit if they do lose by just the one goal. If Boro do manage to win by two goals or more then it's a losing bet.
Over/Under 2.5 goals
The last five games between these sides have featured just six goals in total and if I'm right that this game will follow those trends and be another tight affair then unders looks to be the value call at 2.021/1.
Boro have the best defence in the league again this season with just five goals conceded and Rosler's clear aim at Elland Road has been to create a side in his own words: "very, very difficult to beat". They will make a real fight of it I'm sure and a tight, low-scoring game is on the cards (both games finished 1-0 last season) so backing unders at better than evens is the second recommended bet.
Back Leeds +1.0 & +1.5 on the Asian Handicap at 1.738/11 *Best bet
Back Under 2.5 Goals at 2.021/1
You can read my previews of all the live Championship games here along with Mike Norman's Saturday 3pm tipsheets