Sheffield United midfielder Sander Berge has suffered another injury and will not be risked during what remains of the season.
The 23-year-old has only recently returned to action after spending more than four months out with a hamstring injury, although his latest problem is not related to that issue.
Interim boss Paul Heckingbottom insists no chances will be taken with the former club-record signing, with just three Premier League matches left.
“We won’t take any risks with Sander,” said Heckingbottom. “Let me stress, it’s nothing to do with his previous injury – that’s 100 per cent fine and we’re over the moon with that.
“This is another niggle. Sander has pushed himself to be fit and played minutes and just picked up other little niggles, it happens. The fact he has been out for such a long period of time and came back means we won’t push him.
“If he is fit then fine, but at this stage of the season and with where we are, and because he’s been out so long, we won’t risk him between now and the end of the season.”
Berge is not the only player who will not feature again this season after Heckingbottom also revealed that Oliver Burke has fractured a bone in his foot.
“We’ve picked up a few niggles and injuries,” added Heckingbottom. “We’ve also got Burkey who’s got a fracture in his foot which will put him out for the season.
“With Burkey, you have to be led by the scans. Whenever you get a fracture in the foot they can be straightforward, stick a boot on and they heal naturally, or there’s ones where you need intervention, you need surgery and pins, things like that. We’ll be led by the medical team on that.”
Burke is the latest player to see his season ended by injury and Heckingbottom admits he does not know if the spate of problems is a cause or consequence of the team’s struggles.
Burke joins fellow forwards Oli McBurnie and Billy Sharp in having his season curtailed. Ethan Ampadu (hip) and long-term absentee Jack O’Connell (knee) are likely to be in the same boat – as well as Berge.
The already-relegated Blades play away at Everton on Sunday and Newcastle on Wednesday before completing their miserable campaign at home to Burnley on May 23.
Heckingbottom said: “You want everyone fit and available but we’ve not got that. We roll with it, we get other people in the team and working towards the next game.
“It’s the biggest correlation ever that a team struggling, injuries always spike. It’s chicken and egg. I’m not too sure if the injuries lead to the dip in results or the results lead to the injuries with the mental aspect of it.
“We’ve certainly got a good list of injuries and significant injuries at that. We’ve had quite a lot of surgery this season and it’s one of those seasons where nothing’s gone right in that respect.”