Hull City boss Steve Bruce has been dealt another blow in his fight against relegation with the news that striker Nikica Jelavic faces at least six weeks on the sidelines.
The Croatia international underwent surgery on a long-standing knee problem and is going to miss some key games for the Tigers.
Hull go into the weekend’s home clash with league leaders Chelsea just three points clear of the drop-zone after three games without a win.
On top of the game against Jose Mourinho’s Blues, Jelavic is likely to miss upcoming games against Swansea, Southampton, Liverpool and Crystal Palace.
The 29-year-old forward is Hull’s top scorer this season with eight goals.
The club admitted they were keen for Jelavic to play through the pain barrier until the end of this season but they conceded defeat after he was subbed off in last week’s goalless draw against Leicester.
It was then decided the surgery should take place “as soon as possible to prevent further damage and complications in the future”, the club said in a statement.
Hull are 7.64 to defeat Chelsea (1.45) with the draw 4.01 at the KC Stadium on Sunday.
Jelavic and recent signing Dame N’Doye have been leading the line for Bruce’s side in recent weeks but it looks as if the Hull boss will now have to turn to Abel Hernandez.
Hernandez made a fast start to life in the Premier League after arriving from Palermo, scoring three times in his first five league outings. The Uruguay international hasn’t scored since.