Leeds United centre-back Gaetano Berardi has been implored to step up in the Whites’ Carabao Cup clash with Stoke City, if he is to dislodge one of Liam Cooper and Ben White in Marcelo Bielsa’s plans.
Cooper and White have been the Argentine head coach’s first-choice centre-back pairing this season, having sold last season’s PFA Team of the Year member Pontus Jansson to Brentford for a reported £5.5million plus add-ons (Yorkshire Evening Post) in the summer.
Bielsa was without Cooper at the weekend, though, as an injury to the Whites captain ruled the 27-year-old out of his side’s trip to the bet365 Stadium, where goals by Stuart Dallas, Ezgjan Alioski and Patrick Bamford ensured the Elland Road natives retained the top spot in the Championship over Swansea City on goal difference.
Berardi started the Potters clash in place of Cooper, and the one-time former Switzerland international impressed many with his efforts against Nathan Jones’ side in what was his first start of the campaign.
The rarely-seen 31-year-old recorded five successful aerial duels during his side’s 3-0 win, which was more than any other Leeds player and second only to Stoke striker Lee Gregory who won nine, according to data collected by WhoScored.
Leeds’ third-choice centre-back also completed more clearances (6) than any other player, along with two interceptions and penned an 86% pass completion rate.
Leeds Live have now implored Berardi to step up in his team’s Carabao Cup clash with Stoke if he wants to dislodge one of Cooper or White in his head coach’s regular league side, as Bielsa’s squad face the Staffordshire outfit for the second time in four days on Tuesday night.
The Leeds-based publication also expect Jamie Shackleton, Jack Clarke, Helder Costa and Eddie Nketiah to be awarded starting roles over Saturday’s victims, as Bielsa confirmed after the league game that changes will be made in midweek.
“The team we will play will be more similar to the team we played in the First Round of the Carabao Cup than played today,” the Argentine said.
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