Tommy Smith: Ipswich Town and New Zealand defender to have back surgery
Ipswich Town centre-back Tommy Smith could be out for three months because he needs a back operation.
The 26-year-old has a disc problem that kept him out of Tuesday's 1-0 Championship win over Derby County.
New Zealand international Smith has made 257 career appearances for the Tractor Boys.
Ipswich boss Mick McCarthy told BBC Radio Suffolk: "We're going to miss Tom. He's been excellent in the games he's played so it's sad for him."
McCarthy ready for 'sexy' fixture
Ipswich host Aston Villa on Saturday in the first league meeting between the two former Premier League sides since 2002, following Villa's relegation from the top flight last season.
"It's easy to fall out of the Premier League," said McCarthy. "I don't know why. They finished sixth three times under Martin O'Neill, he left and they were spiralling downwards from then on until we're playing them on Saturday.
"But it makes for a sexy fixture. Ipswich against Aston Villa - I think that's a great tie.
"I would think (they can challenge) because of the size of the club and the players they've got. But every time teams play them, it becomes a bigger game than, with the greatest respect, Barnsley, Preston, Birmingham or Ipswich."