Liverpool striker Fernando Torres will miss the rest of the season following knee surgery.
The Spanish international underwent knee surgery in January, but he has been troubled by the problem for a number of weeks.
A Liverpool spokesman said: “It was decided that he would need surgery on a torn cartilage in his right knee.
“This will be carried out later on Sunday and, as a guide, the usual rehabilitation period for this type of procedure is around six weeks.”
His fitness will be closely monitored by Spain manager Vicente del Bosque, whose side’s opening World Cup game in South Africa is against Switzerland on 16 June. Del Bosque must submit his final 23-man squad to Fifa by 1 June.
Torres, who joined Liverpool from Atletico Madrid in 2007, will also miss out on meeting his former club in the Europa League semi-finals.
The news is a huge blow for Liverpool’s chances of claiming a a top-four finish and also winning the Europa League with the first-leg of their semi-final clash against Torres’ former club Atletico Madrid taking place on Thursday.
The Spaniard has scored 22 goals in all competitions this season, despite being beset by various injuries.
Torres has denied putting his World Cup hopes ahead of Liverpool after undergoing knee surgery that rules him out for around six weeks.
The striker hopes to return in time for Spain’s opener against Switzerland on 16 June.
“The injury happened in the second minute against Benfica and I played injured for 85 minutes,” he said.
“If I had been thinking about Spain I would have asked for a change.”
Torres visited specialist Dr Ramon Cugat in Spain over the weekend to get his latest injury assessed, but says he suspected he was facing another operation.
“The scan I had on Friday afternoon in Liverpool cleared up the doubts and made us see that I would almost definitely have to have an operation,” he told his website.
“It is true this season has been complicated by injuries. It has been difficult and a shame I have not been able to play more games and score more goals.
“The only thing now is to think about the prize of being in South Africa. You wait four years for it and if things go well I don’t intend to miss it.”