Gaetano Berardi to step up Leeds United comeback with Marcelo Bielsa facing dilemma
Gaetano Berardi will bid to put himself in the frame for a recall during the international break with Leeds United head coach Marcelo Bielsa facing a dilemma at right-back after Luke Ayling's red card.
Ayling has been issued with a one-match ban by the Football Association following his dismissal against Brentford on Saturday and will serve his suspension when Leeds visit Blackburn Rovers in two weeks’ time.
The defender was sent off in injury-time during a 1-1 draw at Elland Road after incurring a second booking and he will drop out of Bielsa’s starting line-up for the first time since the start of the Championship season.
Bielsa has Jamie Shackleton available as alternative and used the 19-year-old at right-back against Swansea City in August after an injury to Liam Cooper saw Ayling switch to the centre of defence but Ayling’s absence could bring the more experience Berardi back into the team if he comes safely through the next fortnight.
Bielsa lost Berardi to a knee injury sustained against Middlesbrough before the last international break and Berardi has spent a month recovering from that set-back.
Leeds, however, are hoping to involve him in an Under-23s match against Burnley at Elland Road this Friday with a view to warming him up for a possible comeback at Ewood Park.
Berardi is a recognised full-back but has played as a central defender under Bielsa so far in one of a number of positional changes invoked by United’s head coach since his appointment in June.
Ayling has been Bielsa’s pick on the right side of defence but the loss of Leeds’ first-choice right-back comes just days after regular left-back Barry Douglas suffered a hamstring strain.
Douglas is a doubt for the trip to Blackburn on October 20 but Bielsa could have Berardi, Pablo Hernandez and Kemar Roofe back for that fixture after their recent spells on the sidelines.