Top Sky Sports pundit David Prutton has backed this season’s surprise package Swansea City to continue exceeding expectations and grab a point in their trip to Leeds United on Saturday.
The former Whites midfielder did not expect the Welsh outfit to present a potential promotion bid going into the season, but has hailed the work being carried out by new Jacks boss Steve Cooper, after he succeeded Graham Potter following the 44-year-old’s decision to join Premier League side Brighton & Hove Albion in the summer.
Swansea also entered the new campaign having lost a number of last season’s key players and fringe options (TransferMarkt), with Olivier McBurnie joining Sheffield United and Daniel James moving to Manchester United, while Leroy Fer and Luciano Narsingh returned to their homeland with Feyenoord.
In search of goals, Cooper awarded Borja Baston a chance to rejuvenate his career in Britain, having spent time on loan with Malaga and Deportivo Alaves. He has now scored six goals in 25 appearances across all competitions (TransferMarkt) following his then club-record £15m (BBC) move from Atletico Madrid in 2016.
Baston already has five goals to his name this league term to be Swansea’s leading scorer (WhoScored) heading into their trip to Elland Road, where Patrick Bamford’s four ranks the Grantham-born hitman top of Leeds’ pecking order.
Goals should not be at a premium between Leeds and Swansea on Saturday according to Prutton, either, as the 37-year-old expects honours to be even at 2-2 come full-time.
“I think most people were expecting Leeds to be there or thereabouts this season [in terms of promotion],” he noted as part of his weekly predictions for Sky Sports. “But I can’t imagine the same would have been said of Swansea. It is early days, but Steve Cooper is doing an excellent job so far. I back them to grab a point at Elland Road.”
Swansea and Leeds head into the Championship encounter locked on 13 points at the top of the second-tier table after the opening five games of the season, with Marcelo Bielsa’s Whites pipping Cooper’s Jacks only by goal difference.
Cooper’s side have actually scored more goals than the Elland Road natives have managed in the opening weeks of the league campaign, but the West Yorkshire outfit’s resolute backline has proven to be the difference thus far.
Having a strong defence can be the difference between securing promotion into the Premier League come next May and falling short, as Leeds found out last season, as they chased Sheffield United for the final automatic spot but lost out partly due to the Blades’ superior knack of keeping the opponent at bay (WhoScored).
Middlesbrough’s ability to also boast the best defensive record in the division likewise ensured they remained in and around the play-off picture, despite the Teesiders struggling to ripple the back of the net at the other end of the field.
Leeds also have another early advantage in the promotion race, in the eyes of Prutton, as he sees their Carabao Cup exit at the hands of Stoke City on Wednesday night as a partial blessing in disguise.
“Leeds crashed out of the Carabao Cup in midweek, but I don’t think that will bother Marcelo Bielsa too much,” he added. “They have a relatively thin squad and now they can turn their attention fully to their promotion bid.”
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