Manchester United have been dealt a huge blow in their quest for the Women’s Super League title, with winger Tobin Heath ruled out for 10-12 weeks with an ankle injury.
The 32-year-old will also miss the upcoming SheBelieves Cup, with the United States women’s national team set to begin the defence of their crown against Canada on February 18.
United surrendered top spot to the Blues with a 2-1 defeat but bounced back last weekend with a home win over Birmingham.
Casey Stoney takes her side to fifth-placed Everton on Sunday, level on points with Chelsea but behind on goal difference and having played a game more.
In her press conference ahead of the trip to Merseyside, Stoney confirmed that United would also be without defender Martha Harris after she went off injured against Birmingham.
“We have got a few injuries,” Stoney said. “Unfortunately, we took a knock to Martha last week and she is still sore, so she won’t be available for the weekend. It is a rib injury so we have to go off how she feels at the moment.
“Unfortunately, the results have come back for Tobin and she has hurt her ankle and she is going to be out for around 10-12 weeks.
“It is a longer one. She is a big loss for us but she has still been great in the [team] environment and like I always say with injuries, it gives somebody else the window of opportunity.
"We will work hard to get her back as safe and as quickly as possible."
Earlier in January, Heath opted to stay in Manchester rather than return home to the United States for a training camp with the USWNT.
The 32-year-old missed a pair of international friendlies against Colombia, which Vlatko Andonovski’s side won 4-0 and 6-0 at the Exploria Stadium in Orlando.
Heath joined United from the Portland Thorns on a one-year deal over the summer, and has been perhaps the key figure in their excellent season so far.
Her most recent appearance for United came in a 6-1 WSL thrashing of Bristol City on December 20, a game in which she scored twice.