Leeds United will aim to get their promotion push back on track when they host Birmingham City on Saturday, and the battle between two specific players could be pivotal in determining the outcome of this Championship clash.
Birmingham’s Lukas Jutkiewicz will be aiming to add to the three goals he has scored across all competitions so far this season, but the 30-year-old will be facing off against a Leeds side who, despite sitting fifth, have conceded the lowest number of goals (7) of any side in the division.
An interesting battle that could be set to take place at Elland Road is that of Jutkiewicz against Leeds’ Gaetano Berardi, who at 5 ft 10 could be in for a difficult afternoon against the towering presence that the striker will provide for Pep Clotet’s side.
On average, Jutkiewicz – standing at 6ft 1 – has contested for 15.4 aerial duels every league game this season, winning 8. His dominant aerial presence is likely to cause Leeds trouble at the back, especially considering Berardi’s inferior height and the Whites’ troubles at the back from set plays.
Marcelo Bielsa admitted earlier this season that he still has concerns over the Whites’ ability to defend set-pieces, despite their impressive defensive record after 11 games of the current campaign.
Birmingham will go within a point of Leeds if they claim all three points on Saturday, and the battle between Jutkiewicz and Berardi could be extremely important in determining the victor of this important clash – especially given the Whites’ frailties regarding set-pieces.
With just one win in their last four Championship fixtures, this is an extremely important game for Leeds’ manager Bielsa and the Argentinian will be looking to get the club’s promotion push back on track.
It’s clear who the danger man is for Birmingham and Clotet may well use his aerial weapon to exploit Berardi. The winner of this individual battle could go a long way to determining the outcome of Saturday’s clash.