Tottenham Hotspur midfielder Tom Huddlestone is likely to miss the next three months of the season with an ankle injury that has been troubling him for some time.
Huddlestone has been nagged by the problem for some time, and has often needed painkilling injections ahead of matches. After carrying out a scan, Spurs have decided to send him for an operation on his deterioating right ankle.
The midfielder missed the weekend's 4-2 defeat of Blackburn Rovers and his lengthy absence will cause problems for Harry Redknapp as Spurs fight on in the Premier League and face two crucial Champions League matches in order to qualify for the knock-out round.
A lack of midfield numbers means Huddlestone's loss will be keenly felt, and his partnership with Luka Modric will now be broken up as the 23-year-old joins Jermain Defoe, Michael Dawson, Ledley King and Jonathan Woodgate on the sidelines.
A club statement read: "Following consultation with several independent ankle specialists, it has been determined that Tom Huddlestone will undergo surgery on his right ankle. The procedure is likely to rule the England international out of action for around three months."
Tottenham assistant manager Kevin Bond admitted the loss of Huddlestone was a blow but was confident the depth of the squad could cover his absence.
"It looks like he's going to have to have a little clean-out of the ankle and it looks like he's going to be out for some time,'' Bond told Sky Sports News. "He's been excellent for us for some time now, but that's what we've got the squad for. Jermaine Jenas played central midfield on Saturday and was brilliant, so we've got a squad of players and they've all got to play their part. They'll certainly have to do that because we'll be without Tom for a good while.
"There's a lot good players in our squad; we've got no problems with playing any of our players. You'd like to be able to pick from a full squad obviously, but at this moment in time we're not able to do that.''
The loss of Huddlestone comes amid the build-up to this weekend's north London derby against Arsenal at the Emirates Stadium. The injury also rules him out of high-profile Premier League games with Chelsea, Liverpool and Manchester United. In addition, Huddlestone will be absent from two key European games against Werder Bremen and FC Twente in the coming weeks, with a place in the knockout stages of the Champions League at stake.
Should Spurs progress to the last 16, Huddlestone would be hopeful of featuring, with those fixtures due to begin in mid-February.