Manchester United are likely to be without key defender Rio Ferdinand for the rest of the season.
The England captain has been struggling with a calf injury since the beginning of February, and United boss Sir Alex Ferguson has revealed the 32-year-old centre-back could be sidelined for the remainder of the campaign.
The English Premier League leaders will be also without defenders Rafael and John O’Shea for the visit of Bolton Wanderers to Old Trafford on Saturday.
“Rio has been out for a few weeks now and we are not looking at this as a short-term situation,” Ferguson said.
“He has not started training yet. We will be lucky to get him back for some part of the season.”
Ferguson himself will also be missing from domestic action, with a five-match ban for publicly criticising referee Martin Atkinson set to begin following the Bolton game.
The Scot has not yet decided if he will appeal against the suspension.
“It is disappointing, but it is in the past now,” he said. “It is the only industry where you can’t tell the truth.”
The fitness of club captain Nemanja Vidic is also a concern.
The Serbian international missed United’s Champions League victory over Marseille on Wednesday, also with a calf injury, and is not expected to play a part in the Bolton match.
“It has been a bad spell for us,” Ferguson said.
“Only a few weeks ago we had every defender fit and things were looking great but it has all just fallen apart in the last week or so.”
“Hopefully Jonny Evans may be fit for Saturday, even if it is a bit of a risk.”
“He has trained all week but he has been out for such a long time.”
Midfielders Anderson (knee), Owen Hargreaves (knee) and striker Michael Owen (groin) are also missing.
But things are beginning to look more positive further up the pitch, with winger Antonio Valencia nearing full fitness and midfielder Park Ji-Sung also close to a return.
“Attacking-wise our options are good. Antonio Valencia is back and we gave him a spell on Tuesday night which was good,” Ferguson said.
“Ji-Sung Park has trained and could be available.”
“Bolton have done extremely well this season. It will be a big game for us this Saturday.”