Adam Lallana is a major doubt for Saints’ festive programme after it was confirmed he has damaged knee ligaments.
The Saints skipper was forced off during the first half of his side’s 1-0 win over Reading at the weekend and left St Mary’s on crutches.
Though the exact length of time he will face on the sidelines will depend on his reaction to treatment, it is understood to be highly unlikely he will feature in the Christmas and New Year matches.
That is likely to mean missing games against Sunderland, Fulham, Stoke and Arsenal in the Premier League, as well as possibly Chelsea in the FA Cup.
Saints are hopeful that speculation he faces a prolonged spell on the treatment table will prove wrong.
Lallana’s absence will be a major blow for Saints, such has been his fantastic form this season.
The 24-year-old is one of only two Saints players to have started every Premier League game during the campaign – the other being Jose Fonte.
Lallana has grown into the role of captain, helping to lead his side from the front and gaining an ever more impressive understanding with Gaston Ramirez and Rickie Lambert.
Lallana’s absence will give Saints boss Nigel Adkins much to contemplate.
If he is to stick with his current formation then he will need to find a direct replacement for Lallana to play in an attacking left-sided role.
Emmanuel Mayuka, who has found his chances limited so far, could come into the frame.
Jay Rodriguez has also been utilised on the left side.
Ramirez and Jason Puncheon are both capable of playing on the left, but have both been in good form in their current roles and so Adkins may be loathe to move them.
Another option is to change formation.
Adkins could go with the 4-4-2 he adopted against Reading after Lallana went off, with Ramirez wide on the left and Puncheon on the right.
That would see Lambert most likely partnered in attack by £7m man Rodriguez.
Other players that could suddenly find themselves in the reckoning are Guly do Prado, and maybe even Tadanari Lee.
Guly made his first Premier League appearance for over a month when he came on as a 79th minute sub against Reading.
Lee, meanwhile, is still waiting for his first league appearance of the season, having only turned out in the Capital One Cup so far.