Chelsea's bid to regain the Premier League title looks to have taken a huge blow with reports that striker Didier Drogba is facing up to five weeks on the sidelines with a knee injury.
And with African Cup of Nations duty to follow, he appears certain to be out of action for the Stamford Bridge side until the end of February.
It is understood that the Ivory Coast international is suffering from degeneration in his left meniscus which will require surgery.
That will also make him a major doubt for his country's African Cup of Nations campaign early next year, as he is unlikely to play again for Chelsea before the tournament in Ghana which begins on January 20.
Even if he is not fit for the finals it is likely he will be forced by FIFA to remain on the sidelines until the end of the tournament, as Michael Essien was in 2006.
Chelsea's medical staff had considered giving the former Marseille striker painkilling injections to get him through the busy Christmas period, which may shape their season, but the indications are that such an option has been dismissed.
Officials are said to be assessing his condition today before confirming whether he will need an operation or not.
If he does go under the knife and Ivory Coast have a successful African Cup of Nations it could be the end of February before the club can call on him again.
Avram Grant's side will be hit badly by the loss of Drogba. Although he has only scored five Premier League goals this term he is still considered to be central to the club's hopes of success as Andrei Shevchenko, Claudio Pizzaro and Salomon Kalou do not look capable of scoring regularly.