Stoke City pair Bruno Martins Indi and Marko Arnautovic have both been declared fit for the Premier League tie with Arsenal. However, captain Ryan Shawcross and defender Geoff Cameron are still recovering from injury and will sit out Saturday's (10 December) trip to the Emirates Stadium.
Martins Indi, currently on a season-long loan from Portuguese giants FC Porto, required treatment after being inadvertently elbowed by striker Ashley Barnes during last weekend's clash with Burnley. Although the Dutch international returned to play a key role in a comfortable 2-0 victory secured courtesy of Jonathan Walters and a maiden top-flight goal from Marc Muniesa, such a painful blow provoked initial fears that he may have suffered a fractured cheekbone.
However, thankfully those concerns have proven unfounded and Martins Indi is set to retain his place in central defence for a tough test against an Arsenal side that recently extended their unbeaten streak to 13 Premier League matches with a 5-1 drubbing of West Ham United. Hughes, however, remains agitated that the incident, which match referee Mark Clattenburg did not deem worthy of a foul, went unpunished and was not retrospectively examined by The Football Association (FA).
"Thankfully Bruno is ok, and he will travel with us," the manager told reporters at his prematch press conference. "It was an awful incident and everybody saw it apart from the retrospective panel, which is surprising. The main thing for us though is that he is ok, as it could have been significantly worse."
Arnautovic was replaced by Peter Crouch after 71 minutes against Burnley after receiving a hefty challenge from Liverpool loanee Jon Flanagan, but is expected to be OK. Cameron, though, requires a further two to three weeks to recover from a tough period of injuries and illness that has kept him out since October. Shawcross, something of a pantomime villain for Arsenal supporters following his leg-breaking challenge on Aaron Ramsey back in 2010, has yet to return to full first-team training following a calf problem that forced him to sit out consecutive wins over the Clarets and Watford. Jack Butland, Phil Bardsley, Ibrahim Afellay and Stephen Ireland also remain out.
"Ryan hasn't managed to join in with the group yet so it is unlikely he will be involved. It's frustrating but we want to make sure he is right – he is progressing and is doing the right work with the right people, so hopefully it won't be long until he is back available."
Hughes also admitted that goalkeeper Jack Butland had experienced setbacks in his rehabilitation from a long-term ankle injury, although insisted that he had no concerns moving forward. With Stoke clearly unwilling to take any risks over the 23-year-old, a January loan extension for in-form Derby County stopper Lee Grant could well be on the cards.
"We would like Lee Grant to stay, he has done exceptionally well. It isn't easy moving to a new club but he has been outstanding for us. We want to do a deal with Lee and as we speak we are talking to Derby. These things can take time though. It has to be the right deal."