Aston Villa manager Paul Lambert has confirmed Stephen Ireland will be out of action for "a few weeks" with a broken bone in his wrist.
Lambert initially feared Ireland, who suffered the injury in the 4-1 defeat against Southampton, could be missing until the New Year with a broken bone in his arm.
Doctors have diagnosed a broken bone in the wrist and Ireland has been placed in a protective cast, with Lambert hoping he could return far sooner than first expected.
"It's not Stephen's arm," he said. "It's his wrist. I don't think it's as bad as we thought. Hopefully he will be back in a few weeks time.
"Injuries happen. It's unfortunate for Stephen and it's unfortunate for us, but he won't be out for the number of weeks we thought he would be."
The timing of the injury is unfortunate for the former Manchester City midfielder, who has finally started to make an impact at Villa Park.
Ireland had struggled to justify his £8 million transfer fee under previous managers Gerard Houllier and Alex McLeish.
Lambert handed Ireland a more creative midfield role, similar to the one he occupied at City, and he has responded with several impressive performances this season.
Ireland has also talked about wanting to win a new contract because of the impact made by new manager Lambert since the former Norwich City boss was appointed in the summer.
Villa will monitor the injury for the next couple of weeks to see how well the broken bone heals and hope to have Ireland back in action before the end of October.
That may involve the midfielder wearing a lighter protective cast during games and Villa hope to be given clearance for that to happen from the Premier League.