Berardi And Murphy Will Inspire Leeds To Beat Sheffield Wednesday

First victory of the season?
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Patrick Gunn
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First victory of the season?

As we come to the end of a hectic two-weeks, it actually seems strange to think that Saturday's visit of Sheffield Wednesday will only be the fourth league game of the season for Leeds. The onslaught over the past fortnight has, in typical fashion, felt like a full-season's worth of football already, as Leeds have been knocked out of the League Cup on penalties, thrown away a two-goal lead at Bristol City, and came agonisingly close to an opening day win against Burnley before being pegged back late on.

The pre-season optimism that came with impressive displays in Austria, Norway and Elland Road have been replaced by the more familiar debates and arguments over team-selection, tactics and individuals that dominate our Twitter feeds, amidst the tweets to Joey Barton and vines of Sol Bamba being pranked by Doukara.

One such argument, namely the reaction to Marco Silvestri's performance on Wednesday night, has been, frankly, ridiculous. I said my peace about Marco in my match report from Bristol, and I stick by my opinion that a bit of time away from the limelight might be good for the young shot-stopper. However, the abuse and ridicule aimed at a 24-year old who simply made a mistake (which, as we all know, are very costly in his profession) has been completely over the top, on both sides of the fence.

Whether made in jest or not, death threats and personal insults sent to players should never be a feature of football, but shouldn't demand the kind of pseudo-militant response they have from certain corners of the fanbase. It's Twitter, just ignore it and move on. For what it's worth, I expect Silvestri to play tomorrow (confirmed by Rosler earlier today), and that's fine by me. As others have argued, Rosler showing support and faith in Silvestri may give him the confidence he needs to recover from the Bristol game, and the sooner that happens, the happier I'll be.

Wednesday themselves have made a good start to the season, currently sitting on four points with one win, one draw and one loss, as well as a convincing 4-1 League Cup win over Mansfield. The Owls, however, arrive at Elland Road tomorrow off the back of a 1-1 draw with Reading in midweek, so the teams will be fairly even in terms of motivation, not that much is needed for a Leeds/Sheffield game these days. It may be an early kick-off at the behest of perennial fixture-f**k-arounders Sky, but I would still expect a lot of noise come kick-off.

Senegalese winger Modou Sougou has impressed so far for Wednesday, scoring twice already since joining from Marseille in the summer, which will be music to the ears of their fans, who witnessed a low-scoring campaign last time out -

Wednesday scoring a meager 43 goals in 14-15.

That was counteracted by a fairly stern defence under Head Coach Stuart Gray, which only conceded 49 goals, despite finishing in 13th place. It's reasonable to assume that new boss Carlos Carvalhal will be open to allowing a few more in if it means scoring more at the other end. Former Leeds scapegoat Tom Lees is still a key feature of that defence and will be hoping to leave Elland Road with a clean sheet on Saturday.

Whether or not Lees will be happy with a 0-0 draw and a point to go with his clean sheet is up to him, but it's safe to say that the majority of Leeds' squad will want nothing less than three points come full-time.

The South Yorkshire side will be without first-choice keeper Keiren Westwood and possibly centre back Glenn Loovens, which allows Leeds a great chance to capitalise on a weakened back line. The late capitulation on Wednesday soured what had looked to be a fantastic performance at Ashton Gate, soaking up Bristol City's pressure and stealing the win ahead of a tough game at home. Now, Leeds go into Saturday's game still without a victory in the league and desperate for a result that will put a shine on the end of an exhausting two weeks.

Gaetano Berardi is expected back into the starting lineup to shore up the defence, but whether Liam Cooper is favoured over Giuseppe Bellusci remains to be seen. Bellusci appears to be Rosler's first choice, but Cooper is by far and away the "safer" option, even if he doesn't offer the occasional moments of brilliance that come from Bellusci.

The aforementioned Silvestri will most likely retain his spot in goal, and many will be hoping that Rosler shows the same faith in the 4-2-3-1 system implemented against Bristol in midweek. Sitting just behind Wood, Mirco Antenucci had another impressive game on Wednesday, working well with the big Kiwi in front of him. Wood has often looked lost as a lone striker and the option of Antenucci alongside him allows the supporting midfield and wide-men more freedom in their attempts to get the ball to Wood's feet.

Kalvin Phillips, although impressive once more against Bristol, may make way for the return of Luke Murphy to play alongside Tom Adeyemi. Murphy thrived in the 4-2-3-1 system used by Neil Redfearn and could add strength to a midfield that was cut open by City on more than one occasion in midweek.

If Leeds find themselves in a similar position come the second-half, then Rosler will have to make sure he gets his substitutions spot on if wants to avoid any more criticism. His decision to bring Berardi on for Byram late into the game was questionable, and may have contributed to the team losing its shape and discipline as Bristol looked for a way back into the game.

Whatever the lineup, Leeds have a big task to recover from Wednesday's game tomorrow. The late equaliser will have been a huge kick in the teeth after such a promising start, and the players will have to dig deep in order to turn that disappointment around against a Sheffield side that will be more than up for a scrap on Saturday.

Big performances are needed from every member of the team, and their response to the challenge will tell Rosler a lot about his players. Get a win and we could jump into the play-offs before the 3pm kick-offs, which will take us into next week's game with Derby in a much stronger position.

My prediction: I've predicted two correctly on the trot now - 0-0 v Reading and 2-2 v Bristol City - so I've got a streak to keep up. I'm going for a 2-1 win tomorrow. Their attacking style will allow us more chances to hit them on the break and I don't believe their defence is as strong as others we've faced this season.

With Berardi we'll be stronger at the back, and Murphy's presence will give us more cohesion between the back four and the midfield. They might take the lead, but we'll get it back over 90 minutes.

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