Sven-Goran Eriksson was hit by the loss of the "world's best left-back" as Ashley Cole joined Gary Neville on the sidelines for England's World Cup qualifier against Austria.
Eriksson is confident Michael Owen will be fit to train tomorrow after being treated for a dead leg, while David Beckham should also take part in that session after staying in Madrid for an extra 24 hours due to an illness affecting one of his sons.
However, just as his five leading central defenders were all fit at once - with Eriksson insisting Rio Ferdinand had played well all season despite his apparent loss of form - he has injury problems at full-back.
Neville was already ruled out, with Luke Young having replaced him against Wales and Northern Ireland, and now Cole has joined him on the absentee list.
With Wayne Bridge still on the comeback trail after longterm injury, Liverpool's Stephen Warnock has been recalled to the squad, while Jamie Carragher, Phil Neville and Kieran Richardson are also in contention for the leftback role in Saturday's game.
Eriksson said: "Ashley Cole is out with a stress fracture in his [right] foot that happened days ago. He will be out for at least one month.
"I think Ashley is the best [left-back in the world]. Of course, it's a pity but many times we have a player injured. Sometimes it is the centre-backs and this time we have two full-backs out injured.
"Kieran Richardson is one of the options we have. We have others - Phil Neville could do it and Jamie Carragher could do it. He did it for a long time with Liverpool some seasons ago. So we have options. Then there is Warnock coming in as well."
Carragher replaced Cole at left-back in a friendly against Sweden in March last year - the last time that Cole, who has played in each of the 20 internationals since then, was unavailable.
The Arsenal defender was unaware of his stress fracture when he played against Birmingham on Sunday and also when he dashed across London that evening to attend two celebrity parties.
His presence will be sorely missed against Austria, although Eriksson at least has the "difficult choice" between Ferdinand, Sol Campbell and John Terry at centre-back.
Beckham should also be ready to resume his place on the right side of midfield, despite having stayed on in Spain because one of his three sons was undergoing hospital tests.
"Is he best on the right flank? Maybe it's his best position, yes. It's clear in my mind what kind of line-up I'll have if nothing special happens this week. Probably it will be 4-4-2," said Eriksson.
Eriksson is confident Owen should be fit to lead the attack, despite having missed Newcastle's weekend game at Portsmouth.
He must then choose between Peter Crouch, Darren Bent and Jermain Defoe to partner Owen, with Wayne Rooney out suspended for the Austria game.
"Peter Crouch has done very well for Liverpool so he is one of the options," confirmed the England coach.
Owen has certainly been impressed with Crouch, who helped him to a hat-trick in his only England game so far against Colombia in May, although the forward has yet to score for Liverpool.
"He's fantastic on the ground but he's obviously really tall and can pose problems to everyone's defence," Owen said.
Then again, he also praised Defoe and Bent, adding: " Jermain and I both like scoring goals and bring that to the team. I don't think we do an awful lot more like go back and win headers from corners.
"We've played together for England before. He's a very good player and is only going to get better. Everyone's seen how good a player Darren can be. He's had a good start to the season and hopefully it continues for him."
Crouch is still in pole position to start against Austria, but it is England's defensive line-up which will now trouble Eriksson the most in the build-up to such a crucial game.