Stoke City defender Robert Huth has undergone further surgery on his troublesome knee, ruling him out for the remainder of the season.
Huth, an integral member of Stoke's squad, initially went under the knife after limping out of a home win against Sunderland on November 23.
The 29-year-old German had stepped up his recovery in recent weeks, playing in a behind-closed-doors friendly as he neared full fitness.
However, Stoke chairman Peter Coates revealed on Tuesday that Huth was unlikely to feature again this term and details of his setback have now been announced by manager Mark Hughes.
"Unfortunately Robert had an operation last night and he will now miss the remainder of the season," Hughes said on Friday.
"The knee was reacting adversely to the work we were trying to do with him, so this is something that we have had to do.
"He has been close on a number of occasions, but we weren't willing to risk him.
"In some regards it was good news because we have got to the bottom of what the problem was, and hopefully he will be fit and raring to go for the start of next season."
Prior to suffering the injury, Huth had established a reliable central defensive partnership with Stoke captain Ryan Shawcross.
Huth has made 148 Premier League appearances for Stoke since joining from Middlesbrough in August 2009.
Hughes, meanwhile, appears to have accepted that speculation regarding the future of Asmir Begovic is inevitable given the Stoke goalkeeper's consistently impressive form.
Spanish giants Real Madrid are the latest club to have been linked with Begovic, who is set to represent Bosnia-Herzegovina at the FIFA World Cup.
"I'm not sure where the news originates from, but to be honest I'm not surprised because top teams are looking at Asmir," Hughes said.
"They will want to keep their fingers on the pulse and keep tabs of what Asmir is doing here. We aren't encouraging that though because he is somebody that we would obviously like to keep here.
"He has had an outstanding season once again, and we are fortunate that he is here and contracted to us. In that regard we are fortunate, but I know that he wants to test himself at the highest level possible."