Real Madrid defender Alvaro Arbeloa will be sidelined for nearly two months by a knee injury, jeopardising the Spain international's participation at the World Cup.
Arbeloa said his right knee is worse than he thought "but if everything goes well, I'll be out from six-to-eight weeks."
The 31-year-old left back has been a regular for Spain since it won the 2008 European Championship, but was left out of coach Vicente del Bosque's last squad list.
Nevertheless, the former Liverpool player hopes to return by May.
"Hopefully I make it back in time to play in the Champions League final if Madrid make it and the World Cup if I'm picked," Arbeloa said.
Madrid coach Carlo Ancelotti said Friday that Dani Carvajal will take over for Arbeloa, who has one goal from 28 appearances for the Spanish leaders.
"Arbeloa's absence is a big loss for us," Ancelotti said. "We've worked with Nacho (Fernandez) at the position in case Carvajal gets injured. Nacho is a quality player who can play that role, as can Sergio Ramos as a last option."
Madrid lead Atletico Madrid by three points and Barcelona by four.
Unlike former coach Jose Mourinho, Ancelotti is showing an ability to keep Madrid's array of talented players and egos content despite having to relegate many to the bench.
Spain midfielder Francisco "Isco" Alarcon and Spain under-21 talents Jese Rodriguez and Asier Illarramendi have been reduced to substitute minutes with Madrid's attack of Cristiano Ronaldo, Karim Benzema and Gareth Bale in great form.