Oxford United have been dealt a massive blow ahead of their derby clash with Swindon after influential midfielder Peter Leven was ruled out of the crunch League Two match.

The Scottish midfielder has a shoulder injury which may require surgery.

And with captain Jake Wright awaiting scan results on his injured back, it looks like being a depleted Oxford team that must try and stop the in-form table-toppers.

Leven has proved a key figure for United this season, and provided the assists for both James Constable goals in their 2-1 victory at the County Ground in August.

He has been shortlisted for the Football League goal of the season after lobbing Port Vale keeper Stuart Tomlinson from 57 yards at the Kassam Stadium.

His absence – Leven takes all United’s set-pieces – means that boss Chris Wilder will be forced to shuffle his pack.

United’s manager admits that the timing is far from ideal, but says that Leven is in too much pain to carry on playing.

“It is a blow, but Levs has been playing through quite a bit of pain and it has reached the stage where he can’t continue and we need to address the issue,” he said.

“The timing is not great, especially with Jake struggling, but the crux of the matter is that he will not be fit for Saturday.”

Leven has been playing with a troublesome shoulder injury over the last few weeks, but will now see a specialist where it will be decided whether rest will cure the problem or if he requires an operation.

Leven has made 30 starts and four substitute appearances since joining from MK Dons in the summer, scoring six goals.

His first start for Oxford came in the win at Swindon, and it was from his corner that Constable headed the U’s in front.

Leven then turned provider again when Constable bundled home his free-kick for what turned out to be the winning goal.

Meanwhile, Swindon boss Paolo Di Canio has started the mind games ahead of Saturday’s clash.

Following his side’s tenth straight win over Burton in midweek, Di Canio said of the Oxford clash: “This is a very big game and this is crucial for us.

“Now we have to give back to Oxford what they gave to us.

“We want to celebrate at their stadium because I didn’t forget how they celebrated when they won here at the County Ground back in August.”