Manchester United midfielder Marouane Fellaini has been omitted from the Belgium squad for the upcoming international friendlies against Mexico and Japan.
Fellaini, 29, has not played since the last international break in October, where he suffered medial ligament damage in his left knee. After recovering from an Achilles problem, he was cleared to play in his country's penultimate 2018 World Cup qualifier against Bosnia and Herzegovina on 7 October, but lasted just 29 minutes after picking up a knock that causedhim to be substituted.
Belgium later claimed the injury would rule Fellaini out for "a couple of weeks", but the midfielder has missed six matches since limping off that night. His absence came at the worst possible moment for United manager Jose Mourinho, who has been without Paul Pogba for the same period after the France international suffered a hamstring injury.
United captain Michael Carrick has also been unavailable during that time, as Mourinho makes do with the midfield options of Nemanja Matic, Ander Herrera and Scott McTominay.
United take on Chelsea in a huge Premier League showdown on Sunday (5 November) and it remains to be seen whether the midfielder will have any role to play after his recent problem.
Manchester City captain Vincent Kompany, Tottenham Hotspur defender Toby Alderweireld and Crystal Palace striker Christian Benteke are among the clutch of Premier League players Roberto Martinez has omitted from his squad for various injury problems.
Former United starlet Adnan Januzaj is welcomed back into the fold however following an impressive spell of form for Real Sociedad. He is joined by Roma midfielder, Radja Nainggolan despite the latterappearing to call time on his international career earlier this year.
Speaking at a press conference on Friday, Martinez did not discuss Fellaini's omission but did explain he would be using the upcoming fixtures to give opportunities to fringe players and try new systems. The former Everton boss explained he and his staff were following "50 to 55" players before deciding on a final squad.
Mourinho, meanwhile, struck a pessimistic note discussing injuries to his squad when addressing the press on Thursday, offering little indication as to whether Fellaini or Pogba will be ready for Sunday's trip to Stamford Bridge.
"We have to wait a little bit. Normally the press conference is a bit later in the week – we still have Friday and Saturday," Mourinho said. " I'm not very optimistic, but I don't want to lie by saying there's no chance of recovering, so I prefer just to say two more days to confirm my expectation."