Leeds kept their first clean sheet in almost a month at Pride Park on Saturday, and that is in no small part down to the change of personnel at the back.
Gaetano Berardi stepped in for the injured Pontus Jansson and played brilliantly. The Swiss defender’s performance at the weekend should be enough to keep the Swede out of the team on Wednesday regardless of his fitness.
Despite not being Marcelo Bielsa’s first choice centre-back Berardi was arguably the best player in the Whites’ backline at Pride Park.
Berardi didn’t let the occasion get to him, he allowed himself to play his natural game and was instrumental to the Yorkshire club keeping a clean sheet which sees them heading into the second-leg with a goal advantage.
Although the 28-year-old is a great defender individually when he is supposed to be working in an organised unit, he can try to do too much which leaves spaces for the opposition to exploit.
Whereas Berardi complemented his defensive partner Liam Cooper, Jansson can sometimes be a burden as he tries too hard to be a hero.
There isn’t a greater chance for a player to be that than in the playoffs, but when it is a defender going out of line to make headlines, it can be dangerous.
During these crucial games Leeds need cool, calm and collected heads at the back, and whereas Jansson and his maverick style of defending can be counter-productive, Berardi provides stability.
Denis Odoi last season fell into the same trap that the Leeds man may fall into. The defender scored the header that sent Fulham to Wembley, but in an attempt to be the hero once again he overextended himself and was sent off in the final.
The Belgian’s blushes were spared as the London club won that day, but Bielsa can’t afford to run the risk of starting Jansson if he is going to be unpredictable at the back.