Stoke captain Ryan Shawcross could make his first competitive appearance of the season during the visit of struggling Chelsea on 27 October. The combative centre-back has not played at all since undergoing surgery on a recurring back problem that plagued him throughout 2014/15, but manager Mark Hughes has confirmed he is in contention for the Capital One Cup fourth-round tie at the Britannia Stadium.
Speaking to the assembled media at his pre-match press conference, Hughes said: "Ryan Shawcross is very much in my thoughts. He is chomping at the bit and needs to get games under his belt now. Hopefully he is ready for tomorrow. In fairness to the guys, up until the weekend, they had done fine in his absence, but it is always good to have the club captain back."
While Shawcross is likely to feature against Chelsea, Stoke will almost certainly be without the services of Geoff Cameron. The US international has made 14 appearances in all competitions for club and country so far this term, but limped off after just nine minutes of the disappointing 2-0 defeat to Watford at the weekend with a thigh injury. Marc Muniesa is also doubtful, while influential forward Bojan may be carrying a slight knock.
"We're probably lacking Geoff Cameron," Hughes confirmed. "He's gone for the scan. It looks like a grade one so maybe he'll have a chance for the weekend. Marc Muniesa has a slight issue too, but we will give him 24 hours to come through that. Bojan has an issue with his toe, which is hampering him, but apart from that we are OK."
Striker Mame Biriam Diouf has been out since the victory over Aston Villa after being granted compassionate leave by the club due to the death of his mother. On his availability for Chelsea, the boss added: "He is fine. He is training and is in my thoughts for tomorrow."
Stoke have beaten Football League opposition in Luton Town and Fulham to progress to the last 16 and pieced together an impressive run of four consecutive victories in all competitions prior to the aforementioned loss against Watford. They face a Chelsea side currently in disarray following a seventh defeat of the season against West Ham last time out, but former Blues favourite Hughes claims he is not planning to make sweeping changes to his starting XI.
"Given the quality of opposition we are coming up against we aren't looking to make too many changes. We are coming up against the reigning Premier League and League Cup champions and we are mindful of that. Had we been playing against a side in the Championship or lower then that may have altered my thinking, but we have to be strong because Chelsea, for all of their difficulties at the moment, are a top side.
"Maybe it is a good time to be playing them – we will have to wait and see, but we are looking forward to the game now.When this team has endured a difficult performance and result then more often than not they bounce back positively, which gives me a lot of confidence."