Everton have been dealt a huge blow, with reports claiming that young centre-back John Stones could be out for up to 14 weeks with surgery required to repair an ankle injury he suffered at Manchester United on Sunday.
The England star pulled out of the double-header of international fixtures against San Marino and Estonia this week after he was carried off on a stretcher in the 2-1 loss at Old Trafford.
Specialists treating the 20-year-old have advised surgery is required in order to fix the problem and this will rule the youngster out until the new year.
Could have been worse
"John will need surgery, which will give us a perfect recovery for his left ankle," said manager Roberto Martinez on the club's official website.
"We expect him to be out for probably the next ten to 14 weeks depending on how everything goes.
"It's a clear injury - not a complicated injury. Obviously, it's a little bit of a setback because you don't want to lose any players, but in John's case we were very worried in the moment that it happened because those injuries can become a little bit difficult to treat.
'But this one is going to be straightforward and we are already counting down the days for him to come back and we'll make sure he comes back stronger and ready for the final and most important part of the season."
The Everton boss has a mounting injury-list with Seamus Coleman not featuring since mid-September with a hamstring problem while a similar strain is currently sidelining winger Kevin Mirallas. Stones' fellow centre-back Sylvain Distin is currently out with injury also.
Midfielder James McCarthy has been left out of the Republic of Ireland squad and will use the break to recover from a thigh problem.
20-year-old Ross Barkley is progressing well and is expected to be back training next month after a knee operation.
Ivory Coast international Arouna Kone remains a long-term absentee, however, having not featured for the Toffees in over a year.
It leaves manager Martinez with just Phil Jagielka and Antolin Alcaraz as his only fit natural centre-halves, although youngster Tyias Browning can fill in there if required.