Celtic manager Neil Lennon described the loss of defender Emilio Izaguirre to serious injury in his side's win over Aberdeen on Sunday as a hammer-blow to the club.
The Old Firm giants continued their perfect start to the Scottish Premier League season when Anthony Stokes scored his second of the season to give them a 1-0 win over Craig Brown's new-look Aberdeen. However the win was marred by a first-half ankle fracture suffered by Honduran international Izaguirre, who was stretchered off following a seemingly innocuous challenge by Peter Pawlett.
Lennon confirmed after the game that the left-back, who won two player of the year accolades last season, had suffered a broken fibula. Later the club confirmed Izaguirre would miss up to six months.
A statement on Celtic's website read: "Emilio Izaguirre will be out of action for between four to six months after suffering a fracture to his right ankle. Following an investigation in hospital, the club can confirm that Emilio has a fracture to his right ankle which will require surgery. This will be carried out later this week and Emilio will be out of action for between four to six months."
Lennon may now be forced to delve into the transfer market for a replacement, with only former Aberdeen defender Charlie Mulgrew available as cover. "We more or less knew straight away something was wrong as he obviously felt something. He's not the type of player just to stay down," Lennon said.
"It's a hammer-blow for the player and obviously us as well. It's a huge blow as he was one of our best players last season. He had a magnificent season and we were hoping for more of the same this year. I might have to look for a left-back now as at the moment we only have Charlie Mulgrew. Mark Wilson may come in as cover."
The result sees Celtic second in the table, a point adrift of Motherwell, who beat Hearts 1-0.
At Pittodrie, Celtic created a number of opportunities and, until Stokes's 74th minute strike, Aberdeen keeper David Gonzalez was equal to them. Despite being frustrated at the number of chances his side missed Lennon admitted he was delighted to see his side continue their 100 percent winning start to the season.
"I felt we were in control of the game for long periods and on the balance of play we deserved it," the Celtic manager said. "I would have liked to have been in a more comfortable position because we kept creating really good chances and it was just our decision making in the final third was a little bit off.
"It was all about patience as these boys have got goals in them. If they had been less careless we could have won more comfortably. Aberdeen had a couple of chances where the keeper has made a good save first-half and Scott Vernon got in at the near post just after half-time but I felt overall we deserved to win the game more comfortably than 1-0.
"But this early on in the season I can't ask for any more really. You are always looking for results and a level of performance and I think I got both against Aberdeen."