Phil Jagielka may have to wait until April for his Everton comeback after manager David Moyes revealed the defender was making slow progress in recovering from a gashed ankle.
Jagielka, 30, has been out of action since suffering the injury in the early stages of the 3-1 Premier League win over Reading on March 2.
The centre-back will miss Saturday's home game against Manchester City, and has not been included in Roy Hodgson's England squad for the World Cup qualifiers against San Marino and Montenegro later this month.
Moyes had initially hoped that Jagielka would be fit for the home game against Stoke on March 30 - the first after the international break - but admits he may have to wait.
"He's progressing but it's slow because he's got an open wound in his ankle," he said.
Asked if Jagielka's comeback might be delayed, Moyes added: "It could be, but we're not sure because it's a cut right on his ankle bone. It's been stitched up but part of it is still open so we need to wait on that healing."
Meanwhile, goalkeeper Tim Howard has been allowed to return home to the United States to recuperate, having been ruled out with a back injury. Howard, 34, broke two bones in his back during the FA Cup fifth-round replay win over Oldham on February 26.
The injury has ended the former Manchester United man's run of 210 consecutive league appearances for Everton, which left him two games short of equalling Neville Southall's club record.
But Moyes is hopeful that Howard will be close to returning when Premier League fixtures resume after the World Cup qualifiers.
"Tim has been someone we rely on a lot. He's been a regular for us, and to miss him in important games is difficult," Moyes said. "But we allowed him to go back and see his family in America for a little while.
"He's got two broken bones in his back. He can't do any diving around or running at the moment. The good thing is that they're both non-weight bearing bones, which means he could be back a bit quicker than you normally would be after a fracture. We're hoping and pushing to get him back as quickly as we can."