Chelsea have announced that defender Ashley Cole will be out of action for approximately three months after fracturing his left ankle in yesterday's match against Everton.
The England left-back limped off the pitch in the second half after picking up the injury in a challenge with Landon Donovan.
It means Cole faces a fight to regain his fitness in time for this summer's World Cup, with England opening their campaign in South Africa on June 12 with a match against the United States.
Cole could now miss the rest of the season with the FA Cup final just over three months away on May 15 and the Champions League final a week later.
Chelsea arguably have enough cover to compensate for Cole's loss, with Yuri Zhirkov an able replacement and Portugal defender Paulo Ferreira also capable of playing at left-back.
But the news will still be a major blow to Chelsea boss Carlo Ancelotti, who saw his side's lead at the top of the Barclays Premier League cut to one point last night.
The Blues lost 2-1 to Everton despite taking the lead through Florent Malouda at Goodison Park, while Manchester United managed a 1-1 draw at Aston Villa despite playing an hour with 10 men after Nani was sent off for a foul on Stiliyan Petrov.
As for England, Cole's injury could see Wayne Bridge selected to play against Egypt in a friendly on March 3, which may bring him into contact with former team-mate John Terry.
Terry was stripped of the England captaincy after allegations he had an affair with Bridge's ex-girlfriend, and today flew to Dubai to spend time with his wife, missing Chelsea's FA Cup tie with Cardiff this weekend.Reuse content