Tommaso Bianchi is facing an early end to his season amid fears that the midfielder will need major surgery on a knee injury.
Bianchi is being assessed by Leeds United’s medical staff after sustaining what the club believe is serious cruciate ligament damage during a 2-0 win at Reading last night.
The Italian, who was recalled at the Madejski Stadium after a month-and-a-half on the bench, hurt his knee in a first-half collision with Reading midfielder Danny Williams.
Bianchi attempted to play on after briefly receiving treatment on the pitch but he was replaced after half an hour and could now be sent for an operation.
Head coach Neil Redfearn said: “It was a 50-50 challenge and the first thought is that he might have opened up his ACL (anterior cruciate ligament).
“That’s not good but we’ll have to see how it settles down before we know more.”
Redfearn named Bianchi in his starting line-up at Reading after losing Rodolph Austin to illness, using the former Sassuolo player for the first time since Leeds’ 2-0 defeat to Derby County on December 30.
The 26-year-old - brought to England on a four-year deal from Italy in the summer - was a regular throughout the first half of this season but saw his form dip around Christmas.
United owner Massimo Cellino - currently banned from running Leeds by the Football League - claimed last month that Bianchi had asked to quit Leeds if Cellino was hit with a disqualification, and Modena boss Walter Novellino, a coach who Bianchi worked with last season, was also quoted as saying that the midfielder was pushing for a return to Italy.
Bianchi’s opportunity at Reading ended a six-game absence from Redfearn’s starting line-up but his injury could add him to a list of long-term absentees which already includes Aidan White and Zan Benedicic.
Captain Liam Cooper, meanwhile, is out of Saturday’s game against Millwall with the dead leg which forced him to miss United’s win at the Madejski.
Rodolph Austin and Gaetano Berardi were also unavailable last night after being taken ill but both players should return to contention this weekend.