Aston Villa boss Martin O'Neill fears that Curtis Davies may not be able to return to first-team action until after Christmas.
The former Luton Town defender looks set to have surgery on a shoulder problem that could sideline him for up to five months.
Davies suffered a recurrence of the injury during last week's Europa League clash with Rapid Vienna.
O'Neill has signed two new central defenders this week – Richard Dunne and James Collins – and said:"I'm particularly pleased the two of them are on board, considering Curtis will probably be out for a fairly lengthy period.
"He needs to see the specialist again, but I think surgery is looking more and more likely.
"Luke Moore was out for four or five months with the same problem, so you're looking at an extended period out.
"You have to look at the long-term picture. It's important for the player's future. If surgery is the decision, then the sooner it's done the better. It would probably be next week."