Aston Villa look set to be without Martin Laursen for the rest of the season.
The skipper has been out of action since January and manager Martin O'Neill was hopeful of having the player back in action at the start of this month. But the centre-back, who has a history of injury problems, suffered a set-back in his rehabilitation from a knee injury and it now appears the club may not use him again until next season.
The loss of the Danish international has been cited as one of the reasons for Villa's slump in form from near Champions League certainties to a club which is struggling to hold off Everton in fifth place.
Villa have shipped 24 goals in their last 10 matches, underlining their frailties at the back.
O'Neill said: "Martin is struggling. There's not much more to say. He'll be struggling to play again before the end of the season.''
Villa also have doubts over Gabriel Agbonlahor, who returned to goalscoring form against Everton at the weekend but was forced off with a hamstring complaint.
O'Neill said: "Gabby came off the pitch on Sunday with a hamstring niggle. It seems to be getting better. But we are awaiting the results of a scan.
"At the back of the doctor's mind is a concern that he may have strained it. That would make him doubtful for this weekend's game.
"He certainly seems to be responding - no doubt about that - but he still remains a doubt for the West Ham match.''
Agbonlahor's absence could be offset by the return of Emile Heskey who suffered a hamstring injury during England's recent friendly international with Slovakia at Wembley.
O'Neill said: "Emile has trained for the last couple of days and that is encouraging for us. It would be good if he could make it for the weekend.
"We will see how he is later in the week because we have a few days yet. But at least he has been out training and he is certainly making progress.''