Manchester City have been dealt a severe injury blow with the news that influential winger Martin Petrov is set to be sidelined for up to four months.
City manager Mark Hughes confirmed that the Bulgarian is expected to be out for ''three or four months'' with a knee injury he sustained on international duty last week.
Hughes told the club's website: ''Martin went to see a specialist on Monday and will fly out to see the guy that did his anterior cruciate ligament to have it re-checked.
''The news is that it's not his ACL this time, he's got a tear in his meniscus that will need to be repaired. Although it's good news about the ACL it's still a bad injury and he will probably be out for three or four months.''
City play a number of key games in the four months that Petrov is set to miss, including home matches against Manchester United and Arsenal in November. Petrov's prognosis means that he could target a return for the home game against Middlesbrough on February 7, or the away trip to Liverpool on February 21.
With City's form best described as patchy so far this season - they have gone three games without a win since September's 6-0 thumping of Portsmouth - news of Petrov's injury will be a significant blow. Last season Petrov proved to be a revelation after his arrival from Atletico Madrid with his blistering pace and powerful left foot shot, which contributed five valuable goals.
On Monday Bulgaria coach Plamen Markov denied that he had risked Petrov's health by naming him in the starting line-up in last week's World Cup qualifier against Georgia.
Petrov limped off in the first half after aggravating a knee injury which he had only just recovered from. He had played almost 90 minutes against Italy four days earlier but had made only short appearances for his club just before that.
However, it's not all bad news for Hughes; right-back Micah Richards ankle injury is not as bad as first feared with the England man having strained ligaments rather than suffering a break.