Melbourne Victory will have to navigate a hectic summer schedule without star signing Keisuke Honda, who is expected to miss four weeks with a hamstring injury.
Victory confirmed that Honda, who has already missed the past two games, could be ruled out for January.
The absence of the 32-year-old has coincided with an end to the club's six game winning streak and back-to-back draws.
The former Japanese international underwent scans on Wednesday, which revealed the strain in his right hamstring.
A World Cup veteran, Honda has scored five goals in eight appearances, chipped in with three assists and proved a driving force behind Victory's rise to second spot on the A-League ladder after a slow start to the campaign.
Keisuke was due to line up against Phoenix last Friday but the Club’s high performance and medical staff felt he needed more time to recover from hamstring tightness emanating from his lower back.
After specialist consultation, he re-joined the group and completed full training on Monday, before sustaining the injury during Tuesday’s session. He was excused from training on Wednesday to receive scans, which revealed a strain had occurred.
“It’s disappointing for Keisuke, his teammates, the club and our members and fans,” coach Kevin Muscat said.
“He was close to playing last weekend - but we ultimately erred on the side of caution and allowed him an extra week to recover.
“He resumed full training with the group this week, with the intent to play against Western Sydney.
“While there wasn’t a specific incident of note, Keisuke reported tightness in the area, so we again sent him for scans and received the results late in the day."
Honda has started a rehabilitation program.
Muscat added: “While this isn’t the news we wanted coming into a busy period of games, we do have some players coming back into the frame for selection, which is a positive and will assist the group.”
Victory's next match is away to the struggling Western Sydney Wanderers on Saturday.