A well-earned midweek point at Birmingham enabled Middlesbrough to consolidate their place at the top of the Championship, holding a one-point advantage over chasing pair Bournemouth and Derby after 31 games.
But the 1-1 draw at St Andrews’ came at a cost – goalkeeper Dimi Konstantopoulos was dismissed for a professional foul that resulted in Paul Caddis’ penalty and will miss the next three games, starting with Leeds’ televised visit to the Riverside this weekend.
The Greek stopper’s presence has provided the foundation for Boro’s surge up the second-tier table and his suspension will seriously jeopardise the Teessiders’ promotion aspirations.
This news, however, is sure to delight the improving Whites ahead of their trip to the north-east, where they’ve savoured plenty of joy in recent campaigns.
Available at 4/1, Neil Redfearn’s men must be backed, especially when it’s measured against the hosts’ 53/100 favouritism.
New customers who open an account at bwin.com today will be handed a £30 free bet that converts into £120 profit if Leeds do the business at the Riverside, with a number of factors suggesting they will.
The most obvious one being that the west Yorkshire club simply love playing at Middlesbrough.
Only once in 11 sojourns have the Elland Road outfit been beaten at Boro’s base camp.
They’ve won four of their last five Championship matches, including the previous pair of away days leading up to this one too, but it’s Konstantopoulos’ loss Aitor Karanka is most concerned about.
Understudy Tomas Mejias started the campaign as number one, but after some calamitous showings he was promptly scrubbed from the starting XI.
His five second-rung starts brought about three defeats for the pacesetters, including one at Leeds in the corresponding collision.
Lacking the command of the penalty box his experienced counterpart exudes, the Spaniard’s shortcoming when dealing with crosses was promptly exposed and exploited by Championship rivals.
Whether it was their unawareness of his primary weakness or their aversion to scooping high balls into the area, Boro’s recent FA Cup foes Manchester City and Arsenal spared the former Real Madrid man of cross-catching responsibilities and this enabled him to flourish.
Leeds will be the first league adversary to test whether the 26-year-old has improved in this all-important aspect of goalkeeping and if he hasn’t Boro’s hopes of playing Barclay’s sponsored soccer next season are sure to suffer.