Burnley will be without talismanic defender James Tarkowski for the rest of 2017, starting with the home game against Tottenham Hotspur, after being hit with a three-game retrospective ban by The Football Association.
The 25-year-old was charged with violent conduct for an alleged elbow on Brighton and Hove Albion striker Glenn Murray during the 0-0 draw at the Amex, an incident which was missed by referee Chris Kavanagh and the other match officials but was captured by television cameras.
Neither Burnley manager Sean Dyche or Brighton boss Chris Hughton was asked about the clash in their post-match press conferences.
But an independent panel of three former match officials viewed the footage and unanimously concluded that the act – which saw Tarkowski elbow Murray in the ribs in the 35th minute – was deserving of a punishment. The coming together came moments after Tarkowski was adjudged to have fouled Murray leading to a first half penalty, which the Albion forward fired over the bar.
The former Oldham Athletic and Brentford player accepted the charge but question the severity of the three-game suspension, which was rejected by the panel. The ruling will now see one of the Clarets' players of the season missing for the festive period.
Tarkowski, who has played every minute for Burnley this term, will miss the visit of Tottenham on Saturday [23 December], followed by the trip to Old Trafford to face Manchester United on Boxing Day before the concluding game of the year away at Huddersfield Town.
The Manchester-born defender will be eligible to return when Burnley welcome Liverpool to Turf Moor on New Year's Day and then when they travel to Manchester City in the third round of the FA Cup the following weekend.
Manager Sean Dyche must decide whether right-back Matthew Lowton or Kevin Long will fill the void left by Tarkowski but ultimately he will be forced to rejig his back-line which have kept eight clean sheets this season in 18 league matches.
Mauricio Pochettino, the Tottenham manager, has selection issues of his own with Victor Wanyama and Toby Alderweireld out with long-term injuries. The trip to the north west could present an opportunity to rotate with Moussa Sissoko, Ben Davies and Serge Aurier all touting for a recall.
Tottenham's trip to Burnley this weekend sees sixth play seventh in the Premier League, with the Lancashire club having upset the status quo with a fine start to the campaign.
Victory over Chelsea on the opening day has triggered a run of nine wins and five draws from their opening 18 games of the campaign and leaves Dyche's side in an unlikely battle for a European place as the season reach the mid-way point.