Scotland manager Craig Levein hopes captain Darren Fletcher will be available for the start of the 2014 World Cup qualifying campaign in September.
The Manchester United midfielder has taken an extended break from football after he was diagnosed with the debilitating effects of ulcerative colitis, a chronic inflammatory bowel condition, in December.
As yet, no timescale has been given on a comeback, but Fletcher is certain to miss February's international friendly with Slovenia.
However Levein remains hopeful that his star midfielder could return for the start of the World Cup qualifying campaign, against Serbia in September.
"He's out for four months complete rest, and then we can reassess things," he said.
"I'd be desperately hoping (to have him for the qualifiers). He becomes such an important player for us, not just on the field, but as an example by the way he behaves himself on and off the park and his attitude.
"So him being out is a huge loss in terms of both his performances and the influence he has on the rest of the group."
Levein also revealed the extent of Fletcher's condition, which he has been fighting for almost four years.
He added: "He's had this for nearly four years now, he's been pushing himself, and he's really suffering it this time.
"It's just quite remarkable how he's managed (to play with the condition). He desperately wants to play every single match - probably to the detriment of his health.
"He's just a fantastic example of fortitude and desire to his team-mates."