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Stoke City manager Mark Hughes has confirmed that both Xherdan Shaqiri and Geoff Cameron will remain on the sidelines for the home game against Arsenal on Sunday (17 January). In more positive news, he added that Stephen Ireland and Phil Bardsley were both ready to return to action, while Marc Muniesa is working hard with the club's physios.
The first news is a big blow for Stoke, as the former Inter Milan winger and the American centre-back have been key players for Hughes in the opening part of the season. The gaffer had previously promised to wait for the duo until the last possible minute, but has now confirmed the Arsenal clash will come just a little too early for them.
Hughes has managed to cope without the pair in the previous two games, beating Doncaster Rovers in the FA Cup before a midweek league win over Norwich City. However, speaking with the club website, he suggested he may need to make tactical changes for the Arsenal clash.
"We have changed the team around a little bit over the past couple of games – some were forced changes and others were done because of the opposition we were facing on the day," he said. "Arsenal is a different game entirely and we will have a game plan for that, and whether that means changing the personnel a little bit then you will have to wait and see."
Arsenal are currently top of the table, ahead of Leicester City on goal difference, and the Welsh manager believes they are fully deserving of their position.
"Arsenal are top on merit, and of all of the top teams in the league this season they are the ones who are actually playing like a top, top team," he said. "To be perfectly honest the rest have slipped away a little bit and have been uncharacteristic in terms of what you would expect from them.
"Arsenal have done really well though, gone about their business superbly and are playing some fantastic stuff at the moment. You sense that they see a real opportunity this year, so we are under no illusions as to how difficult the game will be for us on Sunday.