N'Golo Kante, one of the stars of France's 2018 World Cup championship team, will miss the Bleus' title defense after Chelsea said on Tuesday that the midfielder will be out of action for four months following surgery on a hamstring injury.
The 31-year-old had not featured since limping off against Tottenham in August.
"N'Golo Kante has undergone an operation on his hamstring injury," Chelsea said in a statement. "The midfielder visited a specialist with the club's medical department to explore the options for his rehabilitation approach and it was mutually agreed for N'Golo to have surgery to repair the damage. Following a successful operation, N'Golo is now expected to be sidelined for four months."
Kante was vital to France's success in Russia four years ago and will be a big miss for Didier Deschamps with his regular midfield partner at international level, Paul Pogba, also a major doubt for the tournament in Qatar.
The news is also a blow to Chelsea's hopes of climbing back into the Premier League title race after an impressive start to Graham Potter's time in charge.
Kante shone in the Blues' run to win the Champions League in 2020-21, but Chelsea has had to get used to life without the former Leicester star due to persistent injuries over the past year.
Chelsea is eight points behind Premier League leader Arsenal with a game in hand and needs a maximum of three points from their final two group games to reach the last 16 of the Champions League.
© Agence France-Presse