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Leeds priced up at 9/1 to miss out on promotion following defeat to Cardiff

Leeds are still in the driving seat, but can they stay there?
Leeds are still in the driving seat, but can they stay there?

Three things are certain in life: Death, Taxes and Leeds United falling apart at the business end of a campaign.

Okay, so claiming that the West Yorkshire side are ‘falling apart’ after one defeat to Cardiff is a little premature; they still sit in the automatic promotion spaces and have a healthy seven-point cushion on third-placed Fulham, but with just eight games to go until the end of this bizarre season, you would perhaps be naive to rule out the chance of yet another collapse given the club’s track record in this type of situation. 

Marcelo Bielsa’s team have been phenomenal this term. On their day, they are by far and away the best footballing side in the second-tier and arguably much more capable than a number of sides who currently reside in the bottom-half of the Premier League. 

The Whites have the best defensive record in the league having conceded just 32 goals in 38 games, while they also feature in the top-four when it comes to goals scored (56), despite having a stark lack of out-and-out striking options to rely on up-front.

It is statistics like these that show just why Leeds have been hot-favourites to win the league all season long, with their outright odds for the title rarely drifting from the evens mark (5/2 before the season started).

Championship match odds

The individual displays of Kalvin Phillips in central midfield have been pivotal in their journey to the top of the Championship. The Englishman has really come to the fore in recent seasons, but the collective feeling is that if he misses out on promotion to the Premier League this summer, then this season would’ve been his last spent at Elland Road. 

The same could be said for manager Marcelo Bielsa, a man who has captivated an entire fanbase having transformed Leeds United from a club stagnating in the bottom-half of England’s second division, to a side who are more than ready to mix it with the best in the world’s strongest league. 

Bielsa stuck with Leeds when they missed out on promotion last season, which was an admirable decision taken by the eccentric Argentine and one which showed just how highly he thinks of his employers.

However, nobody is expecting a repeat should it happen again. Even the most loyal of Leeds fans would find it difficult to begrudge Bielsa if he chose to depart for a fresh challenge elsewhere instead of spending another year fighting to escape the unforgiving clutches of the Championship.

Championship Promotion Odds

Odds correct as of 2023-01-30 00:06 Odds subject to change.

It must be said that at the moment Leeds are still 1/2-favourites to win the league (1/16 just for promotion) and very much in control of their own destiny.

With plenty of breathing space there should be little cause for concern, and if this article was being written about any other club with such a gap between themselves and the team sitting directly below them in the table, you may wonder why it was even being written at all. 

But this is Leeds. This is a side who have the capacity to blow sides away with their tactful build-up play; a side that can leave the opposition punchdrunk with an astute press which gives opposing managers nightmares for weeks on end, all implemented by one of the world’s most talented football coaches who analyses every detail to its core whilst sat precariously on a pitchside bucket. 

They are, though, also a team who have an undesirable ability to crumble under the first sign of pressure. 

They did it last season, with promotion in their grasp it all fell apart on Easter Friday, like a cheap camping chair bought off Gumtree for £3.75, as a 10-man Wigan Athletic came from a goal behind to win 2-1 at Elland Road. This result kickstarted a monumental collapse for Bielsa & Co. Three days later they lost 2-0 to Brentford before drawing 1-1 with Aston Villa the following weekend, then they lost 3-2 to relegated Ipswich Town on the season’s final day. 

In a matter of weeks Leeds had gone from sitting comfortably in the Championship’s automatic promotion spaces, to helplessly drowning in a frighteningly-uncertain play-off caldron. After initially beating Derby 1-0 in the first leg of their semi-final duel at Pride Park, United ended up losing the return fixture 4-2 and missed out on the chance of promotion altogether. Leeds officially fell apart when the going got tough last season, and after this weekend’s defeat there is little to say that they won’t again.

The seven-point gap which currently stands between Leeds and Fulham is substantial, but next weekend the two sides will meet in what could prove to be a make-or-break clash at Elland Road. If Leeds win, it’s probably safe to assume that promotion to the Premier League will finally be obtained for the first time in 16 years. If they lose, though, then the gap shortens to just four points and muscle memory could really start to set in. 

William Hill are currently offering 9/1 for Leeds to miss out on promotion, which does represent good value taking their previous performances at this stage of the season into account, and the fact that they face a tricky run-in of fixtures against the likes of the aforementioned Fulham, play-off chasers Blackburn and old enemies Derby County in the upcoming weeks. The same bet is also priced up with Boylesports but at a much shorter 11/2, so this price from William Hill is very generous.

Last season it appeared that Bielsa's intense style of play had simply exhausted his team by the end of the campaign, and that was cited as the main reason why the wheels fell off when they did. This time, though, the players have had an unprecedented break to help recuperate so this factor could well be ruled out.

What the break has also provided, however, is an untimely loss of momentum. Prior to the COVID-enforced disruption Leeds had won five games on the spin and kept five clean sheets in the process, the sort of form a team wants to continue when they are gunning for promotion. After a three-month hiatus, that form is well and truly lost and it showed against Cardiff as Leeds looked leggy and disorganised. 

In summary, the Fulham game next week is huge, and if they lose that match then expect this price to shorten significantly. Indeed, one thing is for definite - it’s certainly going to be an interesting few weeks in the country's second-tier..

Leeds to miss out on promotion
15:00, 27/06
Leeds to miss out on promotion
If Marcelo Bielsa's men lose to Fulham this weekend, there would be just four points separating them from the uncertainty of the play-offs...
Odds correct as of 2020-06-23 10:15 Odds subject to change.
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