It felt like winter truly arrived in much of the UK this week but at Brighton an ill wind has been blowing for some time.
Since winning four of their first five Premier League games, the Seagulls have failed to win in seven.
Dull at Brighton
As was the case last season, goalscoring has become a problem but whereas chances were being created for much of 2020/21, now their xG figure is poor.
Their xG average is just 1.17 and only two teams have a worse number, one of those being Norwich. Their lack of creativity was very much on show at Aston Villa last weekend, where they lost 2-0.
Some good news here is that midfielder Enock Mwepu, impressive at Anfield recently, should be available again, while keeper Robert Sanchez returns from suspension.
Still, the worry remains about where their goals will come from.
Perhaps they can draw something from the statistic which shows they’ve won eight of their last nine against Leeds.
Encouraging signs for visitors
Of more relevance is the fact that Leeds have struggled themselves, winning only twice so far – at home to Watford and away to Norwich.
Despite their focus on attacking football, they’ve also struggled for goals – that Norwich game being the only one of their last 10 in which they’ve scored more than once.
That said, there have been some positive recent signs.
Last weekend’s display at Tottenham was a decent one, despite being riddled with injuries.
They restricted their hosts to very little in the first half and similar solidity here would likely see Brighton struggle to open them up.
Further forward, Dan James found the target, while teenager Joe Gelhardt showed why he’s highly rated with an impressive first start in the Premier League.
There’s more good news for Marcelo Bielsa here with star man Raphinha fit again – since the Brazilian made his debut, Leeds are yet to win without him in their line-up – while Rodrigo and Jamie Shackleton are also available having missed last week’s game.
Patrick Bamford’s absence will still be felt but Leeds look to have the attacking talent to trouble Brighton.
The hosts are usually pretty solid but their three-man defence isn’t the most mobile.
Last week’s Bielsa tactical surprise was to use Kalvin Phillips in defence. This week, I’d expect him to try something which looks to outmanoeuvre the likes of Shane Duffy and Lewis Dunk, perhaps using James’ pace, either using through balls down the middle or by getting in behind their wing-backs, something Raphinha will also surely bid to do.
Leeds look decent price
At the prices, Leeds look the better bet.
They are out at 3.9 to win the game with Brighton looking poor value at 2.166/5 given their form.
My concerns in terms of backing Leeds are two-fold. First, they rarely keep clean sheets and secondly they’ve already lost 10 points from winning positions this season – a stat the in-play punters would do well to note.
Therefore the draw-no-bet option at 2.789/5 makes more appeal, especially when you also consider that Brighton have drawn five in their seven-game winless streak.
Goals hard to come by
In terms of goals, it’s a virtual pick ’em when it comes to the over/under 2.5 goals line.
The unders have landed in eight of Brighton’s 12 games thus far and I’d edge towards that side of the argument given both teams have struggled in front of the target of late. Leeds’ equivalent figure is six of 12.
As for the props markets, it may be worth targeting Leeds’ long-standing weakness defending crosses.
Brighton have finally had Tariq Lamptey back in their side in recent weeks and his surging runs down the right will put him into an area where the visitors haven’t really found great solutions this season.
They’ve chopped and changed down that side – Pascal Struijk, Junior Firpo and the play-anywhere Stuart Dallas have all started there but none for any great length of time.
A Lamptey assist is a 6/1 chance, although admittedly he doesn’t have a great track record of providing them.
Use your head and back Duffy
So instead I’m going to take a punt on Shane Duffy.
He’s a player our football props column has turned to on a few occasions in the shots markets this season, although the layers have now wised up with little value remaining there.
However, there’s another market where he does still look a tempting price, namely the ‘to score a header’ one – it’s listed under ‘#OddsOnThat – Headers & Outside the Box’ on the Sportsbook.
Leeds have also been weak on set-plays and Duffy is a big threat from these – he’s had a headed attempt on goal in seven of his 11 starts, scoring against Watford. Last season, he scored three headers in 14 league games on loan at Celtic.
With Brighton’s creativity low, they will be looking to make every set-piece situation count and Duffy to score a header at 10/1 looks worth a small poke.
Brighton’s Neal Maupay has scored four goals in his six league games against Leeds, more than he’s netted against any other side in English league football.