Liverpool continue their title push at Elland Road on Sunday and Kevin Hatchard believes the Reds can defeat the winless Whites...
"Liverpool have strength-in-depth across the board, while Leeds are still a bit too gung-ho against the big hitters, and the in-form Reds should create plenty of chances."
Bielsa must avoid second-season syndrome
Leeds United and their enigmatic coach Marcelo Bielsa rightly garnered plaudits last term for a stellar campaign that saw them stay out of the relegation dogfight from the opening weeks to the end of the season. However, it's one thing to climb the mountain, but it's another to stay at the top.
Leeds sometimes look naïve against the big hitters, and they were smashed 5-1 by Manchester United in their first league game of the season. The Whites twice had to come from behind in a fantastic 2-2 draw with Everton, and then they scraped a 1-1 draw at Burnley thanks to a late strike from Patrick Bamford. According to Infogol, Bielsa's men have lost the Expected Goals battle in all three of their games so far.
There is certainly no reason to panic, and a slow start is to be expected in some ways. New left-back Junior Firpo says he did more film study in two weeks under Bielsa than he did in two years at Barcelona, and new recruit Dan James can expect a similarly intense induction at Elland Road. Bielsa demands a lot of his players, especially those in wide areas.
The row between the Brazilian FA, FIFA and Premier League clubs regarding the release of South American players for international duty has been resolved, so influential winger Raphinha is available, while Firpo and Mateusz Klich have recovered from COVID-19 and could be involved.
Unbeaten Reds are in good shape
Had it not been for a fine defensive display and the heroics of Chelsea goalkeeper Edouard Mendy, Liverpool would have headed into the international break with a 100% record. As it is, they had to settle for a 1-1 draw with the Blues, despite facing ten men for the entire second half. Jürgen Klopp's men find themselves a point ahead of champions Manchester City and level with their other title rivals Chelsea and Manchester United.
There have been plenty of positives. Mohamed Salah looks energised and sharp, and the Egyptian has netted in two of his three league appearances. Virgil van Dijk isn't quite at 100% yet, but even when the Dutchman is at 80% or 90%, he's still better than most of the centre-backs in the world. A minor injury picked up on duty with the Netherlands isn't expected to sideline him this weekend.
While van Dijk has been stopping attacks and firing those booming diagonal passes he so favours, summer signing Ibrahima Konate has had time to acclimatise. The former Leipzig defender is quick, strong and skilful, and I believe he'll make a positive impact in the Premier League. With Joel Matip, Nat Phillips and Joe Gomez in the squad, you can see why the Reds chose not to make the loan of Ozan Kabak permanent.
Klopp has ignored the clamour for new signings, and has instead been busy working hard to develop existing talent. Harvey Elliott is a great example, and the 18-year-old has dazzled in midfield, having spent a long time impressing his manager in training. With Kostas Tsimikas proving to be an effective back-up for Andy Robertson at left-back, and Diogo Jota scoring at a healthy clip, the Reds have strength-in-depth across the board.
Alisson and Fabinho have been cleared to play, with Roberto Firmino also eligible, but the striker is struggling to be fit.
Reds are fair favourites
Liverpool took four points from games with Leeds last term, and they were close to taking six, only to be denied by a late leveller at Elland Road. It's worth remembering that the 1-1 draw in question was at the height of the Super League debacle, with Liverpool's players jeered on the way into the stadium. A tired and depleted side still came away with a point, and Liverpool look in far better shape now than they did then.
Stretching back into last season, Liverpool have won seven of their last eight Premier League games, and our friends at Opta tell us that only Brentford are on a longer unbeaten run in England's top four divisions. Klopp's men have looked strong this term, racking up Expected Goals For figures of above 2.0 in each of their three matches.
I think 1.84/5 for a Liverpool win on the Exchange is a bit big, so I'll happily back that outcome. If you want to beef up that price a bit, you can back Liverpool to win and Over 1.5 Goals on the Sportsbook at 2.01/1.
Salah to strike?
Mohamed Salah is the runaway favourite here in the To Score market, priced at 1.674/6 to find the net at any time. Diogo Jota perhaps represents better value at 2.8815/8 - the Portuguese international scored against Norwich and Burnley, and he also found the net for his country against Azerbaijan in midweek.
Alternatively, you could look at the Shots on Target market. Salah is 2.111/10 to have two or more shots on target, and going into this weekend, Leeds United have allowed a league-high 18 shots on target (level with Arsenal) and they have allowed 44 goal attempts in total.
Hear more from Kevin on Saturday's edition of the Football...Only Bettor podcast
Kevin Hatchard 2021-22 Premier League P/L
Points Staked: 4
Points Returned: 2.04
P/L: -1.96 points
Get a £5 Free Bet on Multiples - Every Day!
Place £20 worth of Multiples or Bet Builders over the course of a day, and, after the bets have settled, you'll get a free £5 bet to use on Multiples or Bet Builders. Bets must settle before 23:59 on the day they're placed. No opt-in required, T&Cs apply