Leeds United will be without Gaetano Berardi for eight weeks after a scan on the defender’s injured ankle revealed a torn ligament.
Berardi has been ruled out of United’s Christmas programme and is not expected to return until February due to damage sustained in Saturday’s 0-0 draw at Charlton Athletic.
The right-back, who had only just completed a two-match suspension, was hurt by what head coach Steve Evans called a “naughty tackle” in the final minutes of the Championship game.
He was stretchered from the field in obvious pain and sent for an examination of the injury this morning.
Leeds were initially worried that Berardi had suffered a broken bone but he is unlikely to need an operation on his ankle. The club are planning to send him for another scan next week.
His absence is a blow to Evans, however, and could leave Leeds with Scott Wootton as their only senior option at right-back next month.
Sam Byram is currently available but the 22-year-old academy product has turned down the offer of a new contract at Elland Road and Evans has advised Leeds to cash in on him when the January transfer window opens.
Byram has been restricted to a bit-part role recently, behind Wootton and Berardi in the order at Leeds. Wootton started Saturday’s clash with Charlton but was replaced by Berardi early in the second half having received a yellow card at the beginning of the game.
Evans hit out at the tackle on Berardi afterwards, saying: “It was a naughty tackle. Berardi would be a big loss.
“It shows you how influential he is that he was the one player we were debating putting into the team after (United’s 2-1 win over) Hull.”
Evans went on to defend his decision to start Wootton - a more recognised central defender - at right-back amid questions about the continued absence of Byram and Berardi’s inclusion on the bench.
Byram appeared in stoppage-time at The Valley as a replacement for the injured Berardi.
Evans said: “I felt as a manager that if you produce a good performance and the team wins, you play. If I’d taken Scott out then I should have taken Giuseppe Bellusci out at Huddersfield (last month) and played Sol Bamba.
“If you earn the right to keep the shirt it shouldn’t be about reputation. The great players at Leeds aren’t here any more and to be keeping the shirt when you don’t play well is based on being a great player. So the decision was easy.”