Tom Ince could be out of action for the rest ofthe month, adding to Blackpool’s player crisis.
Scans have revealed that the Pool winger has a seven centimetre tear in a thigh muscle.
The 21-year-old, who completes his two-match ban when Pool visit Middlesborough on Saturday, could then miss a further a further two games because of the injury.
He was forced to miss England U21s’ 6-0 win over Scotland on Tuesday and has been undergoing intensive physiotherapy.
He looks sure to miss the home game against Reading on Saturday week and is a major doubt for the visit of Watford at the end of the month.
However, manager Paul Ince hopes to have him back to face Gianfranco Zola’s promotion-chasing Hornets.
“We are looking at three or four weeks for Thomas now,” the Pool boss said.
“He misses another game now anyway because of the situation with the FA. Hopefully we can get him back for the Watford game, if we are lucky.
The manager revealed the injury was picked up during the first half of the Capital One Cup derby game at Preston, but Ince chose to leave his star player on the field in an attempt to win the game.
He revealed: “Thomas was sore at half-time against Preston. Maybe I should have taken him off then.
“But with the size of the game, he wanted to stay on and try to win the game. The scans have shown he has a tear and it’s a blow.”
Pool’s injury crisis intensified on Saturday when substitute Nathan Eccleston limped off with a torn hamstring.
The striker faces more than a month out of action, having finally been given a first-team chance from the bench against Barnsley.
Ince said: “The lad is devastated as he knows there was a chance for him here, especially this season.
“He needs to keep his head up and get himself back in the squad. He’s a player with lots of ability. He’s been patient. He finally got on and got his chance. We brought Nathan on and he looked lively.
“He showed a bit of magic at the edge of the box, then that goes and happens to him.”
Pool have at least been boosted by the return of Angel Martinez and James Caton to training. Both should be fit to travel to Middlesbrough.
Matt Phillips has started light training ahead of schedule after a broken arm and could be only two weeks away from a return to action.