Jack Rodwell has been ruled out of Manchester City's Christmas fixtures after suffering a setback in his bid to recover from a hamstring injury.
Rodwell, who has not played for City since the 3-0 victory over Sunderland on October 6, sustained the injury while on international duty with England Under 21s and is now unlikely to return until 2013.
The 21-year-old has only started two games since his £12 million move from Everton and manager Roberto Mancini believes he arrived at the Etihad Stadium with the longstanding hamstring problem.
Rodwell told the club's official website: "I've just had a little bit of a setback with my hamstring injury and it will probably be another few weeks, so I'm looking into the New Year.
"I'm doing quite a lot of training at the minute though, so I'm keeping busy. It's down to strengthening now, so I'm doing a lot of work in the gym and am just getting it right to prevent another injury.
"It's been a frustrating start to the season and to my City career, but I'm focused now and I'm ready to get back."
City are also likely to be without Samir Nasri - who is reported to have been ruled out for two weeks - and Micah Richards for the Christmas programme, when they face Reading, Sunderland, Norwich and Stoke, plus Watford in the FA Cup.
Yaya Toure is scheduled to go to the African Nations Cup after the Watford game, meaning it would be timely for City if Rodwell were available again then.