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Leeds United: Imminent return to action predicted for injured pair Berardi and Shackleton

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LEEDS UNITED duo Gaetano Berardi and Jamie Shackleton are “close” to returning to Leeds United’s first team but not in time for tonight’s Championship clash with Preston North End.

With a view to Tuesday’s encounter at Elland Road, several first-teamers, including Adam Forshaw, were given much-needed “activity” time yesterday by head coach Marcelo Bielsa for United’s under-23s.

Gaetano Berardi and Jamie Shackleton are 'close' to a return to action for Leeds United. PIC: Jonathan Gawthorpe

Gaetano Berardi and Jamie Shackleton are 'close' to a return to action for Leeds United. PIC: Jonathan Gawthorpe

United issued an injury update on Thursday evening with Berardi estimated to be facing another three weeks out with a knee injury but Bielsa has said that both Berardi and Jamie Shackleton are “close” to returning. United’s head of medicine and performance Rob Price revealed on Thursday that Shackleton would return to training at the end this week if continuing his progress recovering from an ankle injury.

Kemar Roofe (calf), Pablo Hernandez (hamstring) and especially Patrick Bamford (knee injury PCL) will need longer – with Izzy Brown also still recovering from tearing his ACL in January. Asked if there were any fresh injuries from the weekend or any updates, Bielsa said: “No. It’s the same as before. Shackleton and Berardi are close to the first team or close to coming back, Roofe and Pablo will need more time, it will be longer for Bamford and with Brown we don’t have any precise date for him.”

Bielsa again sent out a strong squad for United’s under-23s against Sheffield Wednesday at Thorp Arch yesterday with the back-from-injury Forshaw playing 45 minutes, along with Chelsea loanee Lewis Baker.

Asked if the senior players featuring for the under-23s could also play a part against Preston, Bielsa said: “Yes, that’s the plan. It’s not good if a player plays 45 minutes before another game, but even worse than this is when you need a player to go and play a game when he doesn’t have the tempo, the fitness to play a professional game.

Lewis Baker marked his recovery by featuring for the U23s against Sheffield Wednesday on Monday afternoon. PIC: Bruce Rollinson

Lewis Baker marked his recovery by featuring for the U23s against Sheffield Wednesday on Monday afternoon. PIC: Bruce Rollinson

“It’s better to have more activity and having the player closer to his best level than to have a player fit and rested, but far away from his best level.”

He added: “I need to explain this kind of thing because the decision I am taking, without explanation, would be imprudent.”

Conor Shaughnessy also started the game before he was taken off injured.