The weekend just gone was a good one for Leeds United, with Marcelo Bielsa’s side capitalising on more Sheffield United dropped points and even closing the gap on Norwich City at the top of the Championship table.
Leeds overcame Sheffield Wednesday in a competitive Yorkshire Derby, with Jack Harrison’s goal lifting the roof off Elland Road. However, they have been left sweating over the fitness of Liam Cooper early this week, with the Whites’ skipper limping out of Saturday’s warm-up with a muscular injury.
There’s been no update on Cooper yet – although that could well come when Bielsa addresses the media ahead of Friday’s clash with Wigan – and fans are nervously waiting to learn if they will be forced to watch Leeds battle for promotion without their captain.
Of course, Bielsa will want Cooper available. He’s been fantastic in defence this season for Leeds, with his leadership skills helping to pull everyone at Elland Road in the right direction.
However, the Leeds boss can take confidence from the performance of Gaetano Berardi, with the Swiss defender excellent against Wednesday despite stepping in alongside Pontus Jansson at the last minute. Berardi was strong in the air and good on the ball against the Owls, and once he got a feel for the game, Leeds weren’t really troubled defensively.
It was only Berardi’s 11th appearance in the Championship this season, with the 30-year-old’s campaign hit by a serious hamstring injury that could’ve ended his involvement in this promotion push altogether.
The start of the season feels a lifetime ago, but it is worth remembering that Berardi actually started the campaign ahead of Jansson in the pecking order, with Bielsa having a big show of faith in him and shifting the full-back to the heart of defence. That only highlights the confidence Bielsa has in his defender, and if Cooper’s injury keeps him out of the Easter period, the Argentine won’t feel his side is much weaker with Berardi stepping in.
It’s still tight at the top and with so little between the three sides battling for automatic promotion, Leeds could do with their leader shaking off his knock. However, if he doesn’t, Cooper’s replacement has shown he’s good enough to step up when the pressure is on.