Real Madrid star Mateo Kovacic has handed Zinedine Zidane a new injury blow after scans revealed that the Croatia international midfielder suffered a "partial tear of the adductor muscle tendon in his right leg" during the Champions League victory over APOEL Nicosia on Wednesday night (13 September).
The Champions League winners have failed to set a timeframe on his recovery but reports in Spain say that the midfielder could be out of around two months.
Kovacic, 23, has become a key player for Zidane while serving as a back-up for Casemiro, Luka Modric and Toni Kroos in the middle of the park.
The versatile midfielder made the starting line-up in the Champions League opener against Apoel, but was forced off and replaced by Kroos in the 25<sup>th minute of the game after picking up the knock.
Zidane suggested after the game that it was only a minor injury after the Croatian suffered a similar problem last month during in the Spanish Super Cup against Barcelona.
"We'll have a look at it tomorrow. The same niggling injury he had a few days ago came back tonight. He says it is nothing serious and I really hope he's right, but we will have a look at it," the Real Madrid boss said in the press conference.
However, subsequent scans have revealed that the midfielder is set for a long spell on the side-lines.
"Following the tests carried out on Mateo Kovacic in the Sanitas la Moraleja University Hospital, the player has been diagnosed with a partial tear of the adductor muscle tendon in his right leg. His recovery will continue to be assessed," Real Madrid confirmed.
Spanish publication Marca adds that the injury is expected to keep Kovacic on the sidelines for around two months while AS claims that in the best case he could be back in six weeks.
The news is a major blow for Zidane ahead of the busy months of September and October in which Real Madrid face nine games against Real Sociedad, Real Betis, Alaves, Borussia Dortmund, Espanyol, Getafe, Tottenham Hotspur Eibar and Girona.
AS predicts that Kovacic will miss all those games and in the best case would return in time for the second Champions League clash against Tottenham to be played at Wembley on 1 November.
One way or another, Kovacic will surely miss the coming trip to Real Sociedad on Sunday (17 September) with Los Blancos needing to secure three points having been held to consecutive draws in the last two La Liga games against Valencia and Levante.
Real Madrid are currently four points behind leaders Barcelona and the challenge won't be easy as Cristiano Ronaldo, Marcelo and Karim Benzema are also unavailable to face the Basque side.
Ronaldo and the Brazilian left-back are both ruled out due to suspension, with the reigning Ballon d'Or having to serve the final game of a five-match suspension handed down for pushing the referee during the Spanish Super Cup first-leg victory over Barcelona on 13 August.
Meanwhile, Benzema suffered an injury in the weekend's draw against Levante and is not expected to be back until next month.