Gaetano Berardi’s season looks to be over after the defender was stretchered from the field with an ankle injury during yesterday’s 2-2 draw at Hull City.
Leeds United are awaiting the results of X-rays following a second-half tackle by Jake Livermore which damaged the same ankle responsible for keeping Berardi on the sidelines for two months earlier in the season.
The Swiss right-back missed the Christmas period and a long run of games after the turn of the year with a torn ankle ligament sustained in a 0-0 draw at Charlton Athletic in early December.
Berardi returned in February and his run in the team since then earned him a place on the shortlist for United’s player-of-the-year award.
The 26-year-old has been the victim of repeated injuries, however, including a bloodied nose suffered against Rotherham United in November and a cut to his head sustained in a meeting with the same side this month.
Head coach Steve Evans is hoping Berardi’s latest setback is not serious but speaking after an eventful draw with Hull, Evans said: “Unfortunately it’s the ankle he was out with before. He doesn’t need that.
“He’s a fantastic player and this season he’s already been cut open a couple of times and done his ankle. We hope it’s not serious.
“We’ve got players who can play in his position so it’s not about that. He’s just a very good player in that position.”
Berardi’s departure from Saturday’s game led to controversial scenes as Hull supporters behind City’s goal aimed obscene chants towards the defender as he was stretchered around the field. An object, believed to be an apple, was also thrown from the stands.
Evans insisted he had not seen that incident and Leeds are yet to say if they will make a complaint to the Football Association. Referee Iain Williamson is expected to include it in his match report.
Evans, meanwhile, said pre-match doubts over the fitness of both Berardi and Lewie Coyle – the player to replace Berardi after Livermore’s foul – had been behind the omission of centre-back Giuseppe Bellusci from yesterday’s 18-man squad.
Bellusci was fit for selection at the weekend but did not make the cut and was left behind as Leeds travelled to the KC Stadium.
Evans said illness affecting both Berardi and Coyle had convinced him to include the “versatile” Scott Wootton on the bench and omit an available Bellusci for the first time since his appointment as head coach in October.
“We had a little bit of illness with Gaetano and Lewie so we had to utilise one player on the bench to cover two positions,” Evans said.
“Scott’s trained very well and he’s a very accomplished centre-back. He can play either side at full-back so it’s nothing more than that. Peppe will be seriously back in contention for Saturday (at home to Charlton Athletic).”
Asked why Bellusci had not made the short trip to watch the team, Evans said: “We only travel with 18. He wasn’t here, Casper (Sloth) wasn’t here and (Souleymane) Doukara wasn’t here.
“Away from home, those boys (players left out of the 18) aren’t here. But if we’d been at Elland Road he’d have been there for sure.”