FULL-BACK Gaetano Berardi will face a tough three-way battle to win back his place at right- back after returning to training with Leeds United, says Whites head coach Garry Monk.
Berardi, 28, injured his hamstring in United’s Championship opener at Queens Park Rangers on August 7 with Leeds having since signed Luke Ayling from Bristol City.
Ayling, 25, has subsequently started United’s last seven league games, but Monk said the decision over who would be United’s regular right-back was no two-horse race with 20-year-old Academy graduate Lewie Coyle also impressing in training.
Either way, having also suffered an injury to his ankle in April, United’s head coach said there was no possibility of Berardi simply walking straight back into the Whites side.
Monk had already ruled Berardi out of tonight’s EFL Cup hosting of Blackburn Rovers, after which the head coach was asked if the Swiss international could potentially start United’s next Championship fixture against Ipswich Town on Saturday at Elland Road.
“No,” said Monk. “He’s going to need some work.
“He has had two injuries now since pre-season and into the season so he needs a good period of work to really test him physically and make sure that he’s ready to compete for a first team place and compete in this league which we know how physical it can be.
“There’s checks and a certain plan for him as well that will be put in place and he is fully aware of that and he will be ready when the time is right.”
Insisting the battle for the right-back spot was no straight shoot-out between Berardi and Ayling, Monk added: “And let’s not forget Coyley as well.
“He’s been doing excellent. He’s fantastic.
“He’s a young player who has been working very hard as well and he is waiting for his chance and pushing very hard so there’s competition throughout the squad.
“Those positions, in defence, the way training is it’s very intense, it’s very high level and in terms of competition that’s what you need so everyone will be pushing.
“Berra has to come in, he has to earn his right again and show that he is ready physically and then fight for his place.
“But there’s a lot of other players that are doing the same thing. It’s a good battle going on at the moment within the squad and that’s always pleasing to see as a manager.”
Berardi looks like being United’s only absentee through injury this evening with captain Liam Bridcutt likely to be available after missing Saturday’s 2-0 win at Cardiff City with a swollen foot.
United’s new skipper picked up the injury in last Tuesday’s 2-1 league win at home to Blackburn Rovers, in which he was substituted after 49 minutes.
Eighteen-year-old Ronaldo Vieira took Bridcutt’s place in centre-midfield for Saturday’s clash at Cardiff, while centre-back Kyle Bartley donned the captain’s armband.
“Everyone came through unscathed so that’s obviously a good plus,” said Monk, reflecting on the Cardiff game.
“Berardi is back in training so he’s back out on the pitch with us.
“Obviously he’s not ready physically yet but he’s back into training.
“With Liam, he was not quite right for the weekend but we will have a look at him to see if the swelling has gone down.
“The reason why he didn’t play over the weekend was because there was too much swelling around the foot.”
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