Steven Naismith will miss Scotland’s two Nations League matches against Albania and Israel next month, Hearts boss Craig Levein has confirmed.
The striker, 32, was forced out of Sunday’s League Cup semi-final defeat by Celtic early on with a knee injury.
Naismith had a scan on Monday which revealed a slight tear in his knee cartilage, which will require surgery and a period of recuperation.
The on-loan forward has returned to parent club Norwich for assessment.
A rejuvenated Naismith has scored 11 goals in 16 games for the Scottish Premiership leaders this season.
He marked his return to the Scotland side with a goal in their opening 2-0 Nations League win over Albania, and was also on the mark in a friendly defeat by Portugal.
Scotland, who lost their second Nations League match 2-1 in Israel earlier this month, travel to face Albania on 17 November before hosting Israel at Hampden on 20 November.
Naismith will also miss a host of crucial league games for the Edinburgh side, starting with Wednesday’s derby with Hibernian at Tynecastle.
He is the latest key player Levein will have to do without, with centre-backs Christophe Berra and John Souttar and striker Uche Ikpeazu already on the long-term casualty list.
“We’ve had a number of blows in the last three or four weeks so we have to cope with this as well as we’ve done with the other ones,” said Levein.
“It does leave us a little bit thin up top with Uche being out as well but we’ll get by.”
Another Hearts forward, Steven MacLean, is waiting to hear if he will face a Scottish FA charge – and possible two-match ban – over an incident with Celtic’s Eboue Kouassi.
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MacLean appeared to grab the midfielder’s groin area.
“I’m ruing the fact that they changed the rules this summer and it became a different offence,” Levein joked. “He said he’s been doing it for years – I had to chuckle at that, but I don’t think it was an offence, if you know what I mean.
“Obviously we’ll have to wait and see what happens, I’m not going to pre-empt anything and we’ll deal with the decision as it arises.”
Influential Austrian midfielder Peter Haring is also a major doubt for Wednesday’s derby with a hernia problem, while defender Clevid Dikamona is still struggling with a dead leg.
Levein will also need to find a new captain, with Souttar, and now Naismith, joining club captain Berra on the sidelines.
“I’m struggling with the armband – nobody wants it,” he quipped. “It’s the nature and quality of the players, that’s the difficulty. We’ve played quite a few matches without them already and I feel good about the depth of the squad.”
Levein revealed that forward Craig Wighton and midfielder Sean Clare both have “good chances of being involved” against Hibs as he juggles his resources for what he believes will be an “extremely difficult match” and “as competitive as every other derby match, I’m sure”.