Chelsea midfielder Michael Essien has been left out of Ghana's preliminary squad for the Africa Cup of Nations as he continues his recovery from a knee injury.Â
Essien has not played since breaking down in July during the first week of pre-season - the third time he has been sidelined with a serious knee problem.
The 29-year-old returned to light training last month and Chelsea pencilled in the clash with Manchester United in early February as a possible comeback.
If that match remains the target for Essien then next month's tournament in Gabon and Equatorial Guinea will come too soon.
The competition kicks off on January 21 and Ghana boss Goran Stevanovic does not have to finalise his selection until next month.
But by leaving Essien out of his initial 25-man squad it looks as if the Blues powerhouse will play no part.
Essien responded well to the surgery but members of Chelsea's medical team feel his persistent knee complaints are in part down to his over-developed upper leg muscles putting too much strain on the joint.