Stoke City captain Ryan Shawcross has been dealt a potentially critical injury blow ahead of his club's attempts to overturn a one-goal deficit during the Capital One semi-final second-leg against Liverpool. The 28-year-old hobbled off after just 30 minutes at Leicester City over the weekend, with manager Mark Hughes subsequently confirming the player's back and hip had locked up during a dismal 3-0 defeat to the surprise Premier League leaders.
Despite hopes that Shawcross would be able to recover from that problem in time for the trip to Anfield on 26 January, it has now been confirmed that he is facing up to a month on the sidelines. Such an absence will likely rule him out of subsequent fixtures against Crystal Palace, Manchester United and Everton, although it is not thought to be linked to the recurring back issue that saw the influential defender undergo surgery in August.
"Thankfully Ryan's injury isn't a recurrence of the problem he had last year," Hughes was quoted as saying by BBC Sport at his pre-match press conference. "But unfortunately he has some muscle damage and at the moment it looks likely that he will be out for three to four weeks, which is hard for us to take. Losing him was detrimental to our performance at the weekend. We will miss him."
In addition to Shawcross's costly injury, Stoke also remain without the services of Geoff Cameron as the US international continues to recover from a persistent ankle issue that has kept him sidelined since half-time of the first-leg defeat to Liverpool.
Hughes did provide some positive news on the injury front, though, with Marko Arnautovic expected to be available for selection once more after missing the Leicester defeat with a hamstring injury. Striker Bojan will also feature after being left as an unused substitute during a frustrating afternoon at the King Power Stadium.
"[Arnautovic] trained today and was fine," the manager added. "He still has a little bit of a feeling in the hamstring, we have had checks but he is OK. We will make sure he is firing and ready for the game.
"Geoff Cameron is still unavailable for this game, perhaps he'll be back for Saturday's game as he's improving. Bojan is alright."