West Ham manager Gianfranco Zola's fears were realised this afternoon when scans confirmed Luis Boa Morte has suffered a serious injury to his right knee.
The Portuguese winger was hurt when he caught his studs in the turf following a challenge with Tottenham's Benoit Assou-Ekotto in the Hammers' Barclays Asia Trophy clash in China today.
Boa Morte was taken to a city centre hospital where tests showed he had damaged his anterior cruciate ligament, which could rule him out for several months.
A statement on West Ham's website, www.whufc.com, said: "West Ham United can confirm that Luis Boa Morte could be out until 2010 after suffering anterior cruciate ligament damage in his right knee.
"Boa Morte will undergo further tests to determine whether or not he will require surgery when the swelling on his injured knee goes down."
Following the match, which Spurs won 1-0, Zola had been optimistic the 31-year-old, who featured in more than 30 games last season, would not be facing a long spell on the sidelines.
"It is a big blow for me," said Italian Zola. "He is an important player both on the pitch and off the pitch.
"Hopefully it is not too bad as he is a vital player for us."
Boa Morte was taken off in the 14th minute and West Ham never really got into the game after that as Jermain Defoe's late strike was enough to secure victory for Harry Redknapp's side at Beijing's Workers Stadium.
The match was the Hammers' most competitive to date following a two-week training camp in Austria and, although Zola was disappointed not to have progressed to the Barclays Asia Trophy final, he is confident the players will be ready for the start of the season.
"(I'm) not really (happy) but it is totally understandable," he added. "It is the first competitive game we have played this summer.
"I am going to use it as a good game to see the problems that we will work on so I will take it in a positive way."
James Collins was one of the better performers for West Ham today and the Wales international was able to extract the positives from the defeat.
"We are not happy with the performance tonight but that is what pre-season is for and we will work on that," he said.
"You don't want to lose any games. Especially against a local rival. It was a tough game but we can look on it as things to work on and improve on.