Liam Cooper has stressed Leeds United teammate Gaetano Berardi has been unfortunate with injuries this season, but hailed him for bouncing back.
The defender has played just 14 times across all competition this term, but slotted in seamlessly for the first leg of the play-off semi-final against Derby County.
Berardi helped the Whites earned a 1-0 away win, with the second leg taking place on Wednesday night at Elland Road.
The 30-year-old could be in line for a second successive start, but the Yorkshire giants are waiting to see how Pontus Jansson is too and he would be an obvious replacement at centre-back.
“Obviously, Berra’s been unfortunate this year with injuries and he had such a bad injury it should have been operated on, but he decided against it, we all know, to get back in time,” Cooper said, as quoted by Leeds Live.
“That’s the type of man he is, he wears his heart on his sleeve and that’s the way he is. Berra’s been a different class all season and he’s a pleasure to play with.”
Berardi has shown his dedication to Leeds this season, even if he has played a bit-part role under manager Marcelo Bielsa.
He’s a versatile defender that has slotted in well at both centre-back and full-back when needed, while he has a no-nonsense approach that makes him a fan favourite.
The enforcer is certainly good enough to hold down a regular spot in the team, but unfortunately he’s got the centre-back duo of Jansson and Cooper ahead of him.
Berardi may miss out if Jansson is passed fit against Derby, but is the type of reliable player you could throw on to help see out a game.
Leeds need his type of grit and determination if they are going to get over the line in the play-offs.