Noel Whelan claims that Leeds United boss Marcelo Bielsa will start Gaetano Berardi against Luton Town on Saturday with Liam Cooper still battling back from his injury layoff.
Speaking exclusively to Football Insider assistant editor Russell Edge, the former Leeds striker and lifelong fan of the club says that the Whites will not take a risk on their captain if he is not 100 per cent fit and that the Swiss defender will be the man to take his place.
Bielsa confirmed at his press conference that Cooper was a doubt for Saturday’s showdown, having missed out on playing for Scotland due to a muscle tear.
💬 Marcelo Bielsa provides an update on the team: "We don't know if Cooper is going to play yet. Dallas and Cooper are healthy but we will have to see. Nketiah is not ready yet, but next week he will start working with the group. Gjanni Alioski is [also] good" pic.twitter.com/ggLQ9mGW5K
— Leeds United (@LUFC) November 21, 2019
Whelan says that Bielsa has shown that he likes to give players time to recover fully before putting them back into the side and that his admission of doubt means it is likely to be Berardi lining up alongside Ben White.
Asked if Cooper would play, Whelan told Football Insider: “No, no, I think we’ve seen in the past that Marcelo, that whenever anyone’s injured, he’s very reluctant to throw them straight back in.
“He tends to give them that little bit of extra time to make sure they are properly right to come back into the first-team squad and at times even played some of the more experienced ones in the under-23s to give them game time and get the cobwebs off.
“It’s the right decision, we’ve definitely got cover there for a game against Luton in Berardi, so I’d expect him to come straight back in.”
Berardi has been very much a backup option to Bielsa this season, the 31-year-old playing nine times in the Championship, five of those games coming among the starting XI.
Cooper meanwhile has played in 12 league matches so far, all but one of those coming as a start.