Tottenham's bid for a top-four finish has taken a blow with the news that defender Younes Kaboul may not be fit until the end of February.
Kaboul emerged as arguably Tottenham's best centre-half after a series of confident displays last year, but he has not kicked a ball this term after suffering a knee injury in pre-season.
It had been hoped that the France centre-back would be fit for the start of 2013 but assistant manager Steffen Freund confirmed today that the 26-year-old could have to wait at least six weeks before he is available for selection.
"He's on a six-week programme from the medical staff and starting to work now with the fitness coaches," Freund told a press conference.
"It's difficult to say now which game he will be back but hopefully mid- or end of February."
Although Spurs sit fourth in the Barclays Premier League, Kaboul's confidence and leadership would help eradicate the problem of conceding late goals which has cost Andre Villas-Boas' men dearly this term.
Freund is therefore looking forward to having the Frenchman back in the ranks next month.
"He's a really important part of Tottenham," the German said.
"He has a lot of leadership qualities and we are waiting to have him back as quickly as possible.
"He is frustrated. He likes to be involved - especially when you are successful."
Freund did offer some good news from the treatment room, however.
Left-back Benoit Assou-Ekotto, who has not played since September, is fit to start Saturday's FA Cup third-round clash against Coventry, Freund confirmed.
Villas-Boas is likely to rest a number of his star players after a gruelling yet successful festive period for the north London club.
One regular who is likely to retain his place is Emmanuel Adebayor so the striker can continue building his confidence after finding the net for just the third time this season against Reading on New Year's Day.
But Tottenham may then lose Adebayor for up to a month due to the African Nations Cup, which begins on January 19.
Togo play Niger on Saturday and then hold a six-day training camp in Ghana before the tournament, yet it is unclear whether their star striker will meet up with the squad due to a row over unpaid bonuses.
"We don't know yet (whether he will go)," Freund said. "We have to wait.
"I think the preparations of most of the teams have started already.
"We would love him in the squad and that he would not go to the African Nations Cup, but it's a massive tournament and we respect his decision."
Given that Villas-Boas' only other recognised striker is Jermain Defoe, Spurs have been linked with a host of other hitmen, including Leandro Damiao, Fernando Llorente and Willian.
Yet Freund appears to think Spurs have enough firepower to cope should Adebayor be absent for a while.
"We have been successful with and without him in the team," Freund said.
"He was injured for eight games and we had a really good run without him, and with him we are strong.
"We have Defoe and Clint Dempsey, they can play up front. So can Gylfi Sigurdsson."