Lescott was injured during the weekend Bolton clash and will be out for six weeks [GALLO/GETTY]

The loss of defender Joleon Lescott to injury will come as a further blow to Manchester City manager Mark Hughes who is still reeling from a crushing mid-week defeat at Tottenham.

Hughes watched his side lose 3-0 against Spurs, leaving them with just one win in their last 10 English Premier League games.

England international Lescott was ruled out after the 3-3 weekend draw at Bolton and he requires knee surgery which will leave him out of action for six week. 

"His full-blooded airshot resulted in him hyper-extending his knee. His knee locked due to a floating piece of bone that came loose in the joint," the club said.

"Joleon had a 10-minute operation to remove the rogue chip of bone and will start his recovery programme in a couple of weeks after a precautionary delay for natural wear and tear."

Hard times

City were widely tipped to threaten the established top-four in England this season but are now down in eighth place, their lowest position of the season.

The defeat at Tottenham is an expensive loss for Hughes, who spent more than $164 million on transfers in the summer.

With Lescott out injured, along with left back Wayne Bridge, Hughes may well be busy again in the January transfer window with defenders his main target especially as Lescott's central defensive partner Kolo Toure is off to the African Nations Cup.

"Lescott's had the operation and he's going to be missing, so that compromises us somewhat, with Kolo due to go away as well," Hughes said.

"We'll have to look at what we've got at the back in terms of cover.

"At the moment we are having problems dealing with balls that come into our box."

Zola has not won over the West Ham fans with a run of poor results [EPA]
Chelsea showdown

In the other weekend fixtures, Gianfranco Zola's West Ham will host league leaders Chelsea in front of an Upton Park crowd rapidly losing confidence in his managerial ability.

A 3-1 defeat by Bolton Wanderers on Tuesday left West Ham in dire straights and the looming Christmas fixtures are hardly a source of festive cheer, starting with the ultimate test against Chelsea who got back to winning ways against Portsmouth on Wednesday.

The fixture pits Zola against Carlo Ancelotti, the man responsible for him joining Chelsea after he decided that he had no further use for him at Parma in 1996.

Ancelotti's Chelsea sit three points clear at the top of the table, whereas West Ham languish second from bottom with just three league wins from 17 matches.

Zola's assistant Steve Clarke, who moved across London after many years as number two at Chelsea, most notably during the Jose Mourinho era, has tried to take the pressure off Zola's shoulders, saying the club's poor form was his responsibility.

Zola also appears to have plenty of support from his old team mates at Stamford Bridge, although he can expect no early Christmas presents on Sunday.

"I have a lot of respect for Gianfranco and Clarkey and I don't want to see them do badly at all," Frank Lampard, who joined Chelsea from West Ham in 2001, said after his late penalty earned victory against Portsmouth.

"They're great lads. It's difficult but then it's a difficult league."

Injury woes

Zola, who replaced Alan Curbishley last year, has not been helped by injuries to key players such as striker Carlton Cole, while the club's financial situation has added to the gloom.

EPL fixtures

Saturday December 19

 Arsenal v Hull
 Aston Villa v Stoke
 Blackburn v Tottenham
 Fulham v Man Utd
 Man City v Sunderland
 Portsmouth v Liverpool

Sunday December 20

 Everton v Birmingham
 West Ham v Chelsea
 Wolverhampton v Burnley

Clarke, however, believes the visit of his old club can give the Hammers a lift.

"It's a great game for us," he told the club's website.

"Nobody expects us to get anything but in football you never know."

With Chelsea not playing until Sunday, champions Manchester United can again draw level on 40 points although Alex Ferguson's side face a tricky away fixture to Fulham where they were beaten 2-0 last season.

Fulham, who reached the knockout phase of the Europa League on Wednesday, are strong at home and United will be guaranteed a tougher examination than the one they had in midweek when Wolverhampton Wanderers fielded a second-string side, gifting United a 3-0 win at Old Trafford.

Third-placed Arsenal, eight points behind Chelsea with a game in hand, face Hull City at the Emirates on Saturday while in-form Aston Villa host Stoke City.

Fifth-placed Tottenham Hotspur are at Blackburn Rovers.

Source: Agencies