Aston Villa midfielder Gary Gardner is to be sidelined for 'eight to nine months' after suffering an anterior cruciate ligament injury.
Villa have confirmed that the 20-year-old will be forced under the knife as a result of the problem.
Gardner picked up the knock while turning out for Villa's U21 side against Stoke on Wednesday.
The ailment is set to keep the youngster out of action for almost the entire 2012/13 campaign.
The earliest he could make a return is late April, but that would leave him with little time to work on his match sharpness.
Villa boss Paul Lambert admits the news regarding Gardner's setback has offered him an untimely early season 'blow'.
He told the club's official website: "It's a blow and it's definitely a blow for the lad but he's very positive and he'll get great attention all the way through his rehab."
Gardner suffered a similar problem in his other knee in 2009.