The international break couldn’t have come at a better time for Leeds United after a humiliating 4-6 defeat at home to Preston North End was followed up with another disappointing result at Ipswich. For those teams that are flying high and stringing together a decent run of results, the international break can be an irritating sideshow, but for Simon Grayson, I suspect it was a welcomed opportunity to regroup and deal with some growing concerns.

Topping the list of ‘reasons to be glum’ is undoubtedly the defence and it’s no surprise to see online betting firms have Middlesbrough as clear favourites for this one. Richard Naylor was finally dropped in favour of the young Alex Bruce, who looked like he’d been plucked from the Red Lion Sunday League team as Leeds United’s defence raised the white flag so quickly against Preston that the French Army are said to be using the highlights as a training video.

After conceding six goals without him, no one was shocked to see Richard Naylor restored to the starting XI for the following match against former club Ipswich Town. There’s a conspiracy here somewhere, I’m sure of it?

The truth is, that none of the defensive combinations we’ve had so far this season have worked, except for the odd game where the opposition insist on playing hoofball and Naylor and Collins have little problem dominating the air. The problems worsened when number two goalkeeper Shane Higgs, joined number one goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel on the injury list, meaning that chubby loanee Jason Brown was forced to put down his Chicken Balti Pie and fill the void in goal.

The defensive line-up for this weekend leaves little to the imagination. With Bruce suspended after a daft challenge at Ipswich, the central pairing will inevitably be Collins and Naylor. A pie stand has been erected behind the nets for Jason Brown to make his full debut, and it seems likely that Connolly will return to right-back. The only area of any speculation is left-back, where Aidy White, Andy Hughes and the show-stopping Federico Bessone will battle it out for the ‘best of a bad bunch’ title.

Elsewhere the problems aren’t quite so severe. Aside from Grayson’s insistence on picking the massively overrated Bradley Johnson who has had more shots than anyone else this season (evidence of which is on the roof of the Kop, South Stand and no doubt the East and West too given his accuracy) the rest of the team still looks threatening. Neil Kilkenny still wears his invisibility cape whenever we’re on the back foot but our strength is in going forward, so the key is to think like Brazil. They score 3, we score 4… they score 5, we score 6. Granted, the plan has some minor flaws to work out, but it’ll be a damn sight more exciting than some of the dross I’ve witnessed over the past few years!

Online bookmakers have Middlesbrough as clear favourites for this one with odds around the evens mark. The odds on Leeds getting back to winning ways are around the 11/5 mark, with a draw roughly the same. Personally, I think the good money is on a draw. Both Leeds are Middlesbrough have had a turbulent start to the season and both have plenty to prove. In keeping with my ‘let’s play like Brazil’ philosophy, I’m going to go for an instantly forgettable 7-7 draw.