Stoke City are facing an injury crisis for the visit of Chelsea, with as many as four defenders ruled out for the clash with the Premier League champions. Kurt Zouma is ineligible to face his parent club while on a season-long loan at the bet365 Stadium, but a series of fitness problems have left Mark Hughes needing to dip into lower echelons of his squad.
Captain Ryan Shawcross is set to miss a fourth game in a row with a back problem suffered in training earlier this month, while summer signing Kevin Wimmer is doubtful with a hamstring injury. Geoff Cameron remains out with a similar problem picked up during the international break, leaving Bruno Martins Indi as the only fully available centre-back to have featured in the top flight this season.
Hughes may be forced to field a number of peripheral first team players against former club Chelsea, with Glen Johnson likely to deputise alongside Erik Pieters, who has played exclusive at left wing-back this season. Eighteen-year-olds Josh Tymon and Harry Souttar, who have both had outings in the Carabao Cup this season, are likely to be among the 18-man matchday squad.
"Ryan won't be available," said Hughes, according to Sky Sports. "Geoff Cameron won't be available. Kurt Zouma isn't available. We've got a major doubt on Kevin Wimmer, so that's touch and go. We will have to have a look and see how he is today. So as it stands, of the senior centre-halves that I've got, I've only got one.
"I'm keeping my fingers crossed Kevin will be okay. He has got damage to his hamstring. I am hoping it won't stop him laying but clearly at the moment he's a big risk. We are a little bit stretched to say the least."
Chelsea arrive in the Potteries with the home side having won just two of their last seven games in the Premier League – though their sole top flight win came against Arsenal last month – with their four-game winless run extended by defeat to Championship side Bristol City in the EFL Cup. Captain Darren Fletcher says the team must respond immediate to the giant-killing
"We've got to learn from it quickly because we've got big games coming up," the ex-Manchester United midfielder said. "You've got to look at yourself quickly and rectify mistakes. Going up against a top side like Chelsea, you've got to be bang at it.
"You need character away from home and stand up and be counted, but it's in the past now. We've got to look to Chelsea, pick ourselves up, learn from this and go again. We've been good at home. Beat Arsenal, drew with Manchester United and we've got to get back to that level of performance to do anything against Chelsea."