RUBEN LOFTUS-CHEEK’S World Cup dream could be KO’d by ankle surgery.
Crystal Palace hope the England midfielder does not need to go under the knife.
But Eagles boss Roy Hodgson admits the clock is ticking as far as this summer’s finals are concerned.
The on-loan Chelsea ace, 21, has not featured since December 28.
And Hodgson said: “The injury is more severe than we originally thought and he may require surgery. His treatment is being handled by our doctor and the Chelsea doctor.
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“They are making the decisions. All I can do is sit back and accept what they come up with.
“I’d be very disappointed, surgery or no surgery, if he’s not playing before the end of the season.
“But the only way he can make himself available to us, or England, is to be fit — and at the moment that isn’t the case.”
Loftus-Cheek made his Three Lions breakthrough in November in Wembley friendlies with Germany and Brazil.
He was man of the match against the Germans and England boss Gareth Southgate is a big fan.
Hodgson will resist the temptation to send him back to Chelsea and bring in a fully-fit loanee.
He said: “There aren’t that many Loftus-Cheeks out there at Premier League clubs who are ready to come on loan.
“There might be key games at the end of the season where he might be fully fit. I would rather that than send him back — but Chelsea may have different opinions.”
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