Manchester City boss Roberto Mancini admits he is uncertain when Micah Richards will be welcomed back into his first team plans.
The 24-year-old has been forced to sit out the start of the season after picking up an ankle injury while representing Team GB at the 2012 Olympics.
It was initially suggested that he would be sidelined for around a month, but the versatile defender is no nearer to making a return to action.
Mancini opened a discussion on the progress being made by his injured stars by claiming that Richards could be out until Christmas, only to then clarify that he was joking.
The Italian said: "Micah - for Christmas. No, I joke. I don't know. I hope he can recover. He has a problem in his ankle. I don't know how many weeks."
Gareth Barry is another of those currently nursing a knock and the England international midfielder could see an abdominal problem rule him out for another month.
Mancini said: "Gareth is getting better but he needs three or four weeks more.
"He played 45 minutes with the reserves on Monday and it was the first game after three months. He needs to train for other games."
City's other major absentee is last season's top scorer Sergio Aguero but he remains on course to return in the near future, possibly for a trip to Stoke on 15th September or the following week's clash with Arsenal.
Mancini said: "We hope after the international break. The game against Stoke or Arsenal."