Liverpool boss Matt Beard has confirmed Republic of Ireland’s Leanne Kiernan faces a race against time to be fit for the World Cup.
The striker has not played since injuring her ankle in her side’s win against Chelsea in September.
The 23-year-old underwent surgery and was expected to return in February, but Beard said she is still 10 weeks away from full fitness.
Ireland kick off their first World Cup campaign against Australia on 7 July.
Kiernan has won 27 caps for her country and has been a regular in Vera Pauw’s international squads.
Her injury ruled her out of the final three World Cup qualifying games, and she was forced to watch on as Ireland overcame Scotland in a play-off to reach the tournament for the first time.
The forward will now miss her country’s April international camp, which will include two friendlies against the USA, as Beard revealed she has had some setbacks in her rehabilitation.
Speaking ahead of Liverpool’s return to action against Arsenal, the Reds manager said: “She is, at the earliest, 10 weeks away, unfortunately. She has had a couple of setbacks when she has been back running on the pitch.
“We have had a couple of different scans just to try to get to the bottom of what’s happening. Obviously she had an injection to try to settle the area around the heel and the ankle.
“I think we are at the point now where the main thing is now, with the type of injury she has had, which is a serious one, we just get her back fit and healthy.”
Beard hopes that Kiernan can return in time to be considered for selection for the tournament in Australia and New Zealand, but later in the summer may be a more realistic date for a possible return.
“I know with the World Cup looming we wanted to get her back before the end of the season and give her minutes,” he said.
“If that happens before the end of the season then it gives her the opportunity potentially to stake a claim for the World Cup. But if not, then it will be about getting her right for the summer and pre-season.”