Marcelo Bielsa has a real selection headache when it comes to choosing who should partner Liam Cooper for Leeds’ playoff run. Pontus Jansson has been injured recently, but he may be ready to return for Wednesday’s match at Elland Road.
Gaetano Berardi started the first leg against Derby on Saturday and put in another excellent shift at centre-back. Even if Jansson returns, there is now enough evidence to say that the Swiss international may be the better option in the heart of the defence.
Leeds’ defensive numbers are incredible when the Swiss man is utilised as a centre-half, and if that can continue then the Whites will already have one foot in the Premier League.
As the above infographic shows, although Berardi hasn’t played at centre-back too often this season, when he does, he is effective.
Six clean sheets in 10 games is an incredible return for any defender, and when you consider that some of those came against the likes of Norwich, Derby and Middlesbrough, it is even more impressive.
Berardi has shown he has what it takes to play against top-level opposition and keep them out. The Whites have conceded just six goals all season when the 30-year-old is playing centrally.
The versatile defender also makes on average 2.5 tackles per game when playing as a centre-back, compared to Jansson’s 2.4. The difference is marginal, but it shows that the former Sampdoria man is just as strong in the tackle as the Swede.
He has picked up five yellow cards in ten outings whilst playing that role, and although that may seem like a bad thing it highlights the type of attitude Bielsa’s side needs heading into these vital games.
His determination to win possession can see him cautioned from time to time, but it is a testament to his defensive ability that he hasn’t been sent off in any of these games where he has picked up a yellow.
Both of these players are brilliant at this level, but heading into the final games of the season it would be very harsh to say that Berardi hasn’t earnt his spot next to Cooper.