Southampton defender Virgil van Dijk will miss the EFL Cup final against Manchester United.
The Dutch centre-half suffered an ankle injury against Leicester on January 22 and manager Claude Puel revealed on Thursday he faces up to three months on the sidelines.
That means he is certain to be out of the Wembley cup clash against Jose Mourinho’s United on February 26.
“He will not be available for many weeks, two or three months,” said Puel.
“It’s an important problem and difficult for us. He is important for the group and the fans with his quality and leadership.
“It’s a blow but we will find a solution. For the semi-final second leg against Liverpool we got a fantastic result without him and we will continue with other possibilities.
“Ryan Bertrand can play in this position, and we will see with young players like Jack Stephens. We have possibilities.”
Having sold Jose Fonte to West Ham, Puel finds himself light in central defence having been unable to bring in reinforcements in the January transfer window.
“We studied a lot of solutions and possibilities but we could not find a good opportunity in January,” the Frenchman added.
“We worked hard but without success so we continue with this squad to find a solution.”