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Stuart Dalgleish 8th Aug 2011 - 20:18

Backing City ain’t a Brad idea

Leeds United v Bradford City preview - 19:45 live on Sky Sports 2

After narrowly missing out on the play-offs last season, this year should've seen Leeds kick-on and make a promotion push, but Ken Bates seems to be ensuring that won't happen and it could be a tough year at Elland Road.

United's chairman has reportedly laid out £7 million on new exec boxes in the East Stand, but given Simon Grayson a jar full of loose change to work with in the transfer market.

The fruits of Grayson's 'purchases' are two goalkeepers of poorer quality than the departed Kasper Schmeichel (sold to the favourites Leicester despite not requesting to leave), a midfielder who likes to kick people and a defender on loan who hardly set the world alight last year when in a similar deal with Ipswich.

All this business has proved to be about as exciting as watching two people play chess in front of a freshly painted wall.

To add to this lack of decent signings, United also got rid of two first-team regulars on frees as they had the audacity to ask for a competitive wage - it all added to Leeds fans' frustrations and the result on the opening day sent them over the edge.

The Whites (8/15) now need a marked improvement in this Carling Cup clash with Bradford (5/1, draw 3/1) or the fans revolt against the chairman will go into overdrive.

Even with changes to the team, I can't see Leeds being a shrewd investment at their odds-on price.

They are already without their two best strikers through injury (Becchio and Somma), and now their best midfielders are absent due to international call-ups, Gradel with the Ivory Coast and Snodgrass with Scotland.

It is farcical that international friendlies are organised in the same week that the Carling Cup starts, never mind that it's also three days before the Premier League gets underway too.

All the managers have to deal with it though, so Grayson isn't alone with having to reshuffle his starting XI, but after the weekend disaster he'd have been thinking of changes anyway.

Lloyd Sam (8/1 first goal) will start on one flank, with the possibility of Ramon Nunez (5/1) filling the other wide position, O'Dea is on international duty too so left-back is up for grabs; Ben Parker (20/1) and Aidy White (33/1) will fight it out for that slot.

Former Bantam Billy Paynter (4/1) could partner Ross McCormack (4/1) up top, Grayson often favours one up front (Becchio when fit) but lack of men and the need for a result could force his hand.

Peter Jackson has some decisions to make too; Steve Williams (33/1 - good price at 12/1 for anytime scorer) returns and is more than likely just going to take Lee Bullock's place as he has a hamstring problem, but Luke Oliver looks set to miss out with a foot injury.

Ritchie Jones (16/1) has been struggling with injury too; the Manchester United youth product was signed from Oldham in the summer and could make his debut at Elland Road, but it would more than likely be from the bench.

One man who could be involved is Oscar Jansson - the Swedish stopper signed on loan from Tottenham today and has previous in this competition, having saved a penalty in Northampton's shoot-out win over Reading last season while on another loan spell.

Bradford's squad is still gelling after signing several players in the summer, but I think they'll all be aware of the rivalry with Leeds and it's a no-pressure game for them.

They will be roared on by 5,000 travelling fans, and for many of the players it will be one of the biggest stadiums they'll have played in, all the pressure is on Leeds and I think that could play right into the hands of the visitors.

I like the look of Bradford to qualify at 10/3 (Leeds are 1/5), they will try frustrate the hosts by any means, and the Elland Road faithful are already restless - a plucky win by the odd goal could be the bet, at 6/1 it looks cracking value in the margin of victory market.

Last year's top scorer David Syers (11/1) missed a couple of golden chances in the weekend defeat to Aldershot, but if he gets his eye in then I'd really be tempted to have a few quid on the 120/1 on offer of Syers 1-0 in the scorecast market.

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