LEEDS United’s fans will find out on Saturday afternoon who forms Leeds United’s Ewood Park centre-back duo but head coach Neil Redfearn revealed on Thursday that he more or less already knows.
And a quick look at the stats suggests Giuseppe Bellusci will be the man to miss out with Liam Cooper partnering Jason Pearce at the heart of the back four.
With both Pearce and Bellusci having served one-match suspensions, Redfearn has the enviable headache of being able to pick from all three centre-halves - lending itself to the perfect opportunity to compare the trio on this term’s Championship stats.
And the first thing to be stressed is that Cooper has had nowhere near the amount of game time as Bellusci and especially Pearce.
Team captain Pearce has played 16 games and 1440 minutes compared to Bellusci’s 13 appearances and 1136 minutes with Cooper weighing in with just seven games and 494 minutes.
It means anything more than a third of the other two’s achievements would put Cooper’s name in lights yet the 23-year-old has actually won more aerial duels than Bellusci (19 to 17) and the same amount of tackles as Pearce in ten.
Cooper weighs in a bit light on the blocks front - three compared to Bellusci’s 12 and Pearce’s 22 and his clearances are no better than they should be in comparison - 34 to Bellusci’s 107 and Pearce’s 141.
But with the tackles and aerial duels in his favour - not to mention age on his side - it seems that Cooper would have to start, especially in light of his fantastic performance in the win against Blackpool - and his stunning strike that provided that victory’s platform.
If Cooper does indeed start it leaves a straight choice between Pearce and Bellusci and the quandary is easily simplified into a case of whether Redfearn opts for a centre-back option that will strengthen his arm in defence or oddly attack.
Even as a centre-back, there is no denying Bellusci’s attacking influence.
He has scored two Championship goals this season compared to Cooper’s one and Pearce’s one while the Italian has created five chances compared to Pearce’s four and Cooper’s none.
But if its a commanding centre-half Redfearn yearns for then there’s no getting away from Pearce who has won an impressive 52 aerial duels compared to Cooper’s 19 and Bellusci’s 17 and also made 141 clearances in comparison to Bellusci’s 107 and Cooper’s 34.
His 22 blocks also far outweigh Bellusci’s 12 and Cooper’s three.
And then there’s the rather key issue of ‘errors leading to a goal’ with Pearce’s perfect zero not matched by the other duo.
The youthful Cooper made such an impression against Blackpool - and to a lesser degree against Charlton when Pearce was suspended - that he seemingly has to start.
That seems likely, especially given Redfearn’s confidence in youth.
If it’s a centre-back who does what it says on the tin he’s after, Jason Pearce will partner him.