Ben Chilwell is expected to miss the rest of the season after Chelsea decided he should undergo surgery on his damaged anterior cruciate ligament.
The England left back picked up the injury in the 4-0 victory over Juventus back in November and hasn't played since, though it was thought at one stage that he was edging his way back to full fitness and could even be available as soon as January.
However, Goal have confirmed that the Blues have decided to end his current rehabilitation process to instead perform surgery. Chilwell will need most of 2022 to recover, meaning his return may come later in the year at the earliest.
It's a blow for Thomas Tuchel, leaving the Chelsea manager with just Marcos Alonso as his specialist left wing back at Stamford Bridge. Saul Niguez, Christian Pulisic and Callum Hudson-Odoi have been used in that position, but it is not the favoured position of any of the trio.
Chilwell's prolonged absence could see Chelsea dip into the January market for a new left sided defender, and 90min understands that Everton's Lucas Digne is one such candidate for a move.
The France international has fallen out with Rafa Benitez at Goodison Park and is expected to be allowed to leave the club in the winter market.
Chilwell has been an important goal threat for Chelsea this season, scoring three goals and contributing another assist in just six Premier League appearances. With Digne, they'd be signing another left back with similar attacking qualities.
The former Barcelona defender is known for his crossing ability from wide areas, totting up 14 assists in the league during the 2019/20 and 2020/21 seasons.
In Digne's absence - he hasn't played since the 4-1 defeat to Liverpool at the start of December - centre back Ben Godfrey has deputised on the left for the Toffees.