Stoke City boss Mark Hughes will have to do without defender Marc Muniesa for up to six weeks with a torn hamstring.
The 22-year-old picked up the injury during the Potters’ 4-1 hammering at the hands of Championship outfit Blackburn in the fifth round of the FA Cup last weekend.
Further analysis has shown the tear will rule Muniesa out until the end of March, leaving his side short in the defensive department.
Stoke assistant boss Mark Bowen has admitted it has come as a real blow with the youngster impressing during his time at the Britannia Stadium since joining in 2013.
He told BBC Radio Stoke: “We feared it was a really bad one. He had a scan and they’ve come back saying it’s four to six weeks.
“Over the course of the last two months you could argue he’s been probably our best defender and showed a lot of maturity.
“He’s almost nailed down that left-hand side centre-half spot as his own.”
With centre-back Ryan Shawcross struggling with a back problem and German defender Robert Huth out on loan, Potters boss Hughes has limited options at the back ahead of the clash with Aston Villa on Saturday.
The Potters are 2.81 to beat Tim Sherwood’s new side.
Villa will be looking to do the double over the Potters in the Premier League this season, having secured a 1-0 win at the Britannia Stadium back in August.