Having already lost goalkeepers Lars Unnerstall and Ralf Fährmann to injury, FC Schalke 04 have suffered a further blow with Timo Hildebrand rated doubtful for the UEFA Europa League quarter-final return leg against Athletic Club after damaging his elbow.
Hildebrand was substituted at half-time of Thursday's 4-2 first-leg home defeat by the Spanish Liga side after damaging the capsule and sinews in his right elbow while conceding Fernando Llorente's opening goal at the Arena AufSchalke. The former German international, 32, was replaced by 35-year-old Mathias Schober, the only fit keeper left in Schalke's first-team squad.
It remains uncertain exactly how long Hildebrand will be sidelined but the Gelsenkirchen outfit have already declared him unavailable for Sunday's Bundesliga visit to TSG 1899 Hoffenheim, which puts his involvement in next Thursday's return match in Bilbao in serious jeopardy.
The former VfB Stuttgart, Valencia CF and Hoffenheim man joined Schalke as a free agent at the end of October after the Royal Blues' first-choice custodians Fährmann (knee) and Unnerstall (shoulder) sustained long-term injuries. One bright spot on the horizon is that Unnerstall, 21, returned to first-team training today, with coach Huub Stevens saying: "I hope he will be ready to play soon."
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