Ireland joins Stoke injury list
Stoke boss Mark Hughes faces Barclays Premier League champions Manchester City without another star name he has hailed as "a game changer".
Hughes' injury woes are mounting as midfielder Stephen Ireland faces around a fortnight on the sidelines with a hamstring problem that forced him off late in Sunday's 1-1 draw at Newcastle.
Ireland is joined on the sidelines by Marc Wilson (groin), another casualty from the trip to St James' Park, along with captain Ryan Shawcross (back), Erik Pieters (hernia), and long-term duo Bojan Krkic and Peter Odemwingie (both knee).
Marko Arnautovic, who missed the clash with the Magpies, is also a doubt with an ankle injury.
Hughes, though, knows former Manchester City star Ireland's loss will be felt as he said: "It's a blow for him as well as the team.
"He'd come in and made an impact, which tempered the loss of Bojan because there was a bit of doom and gloom obviously.
"Unfortunately injuries have been the story of his season because he was our best performer in pre-season and he looked like he was going to start very strong.
"He was playing well, but unfortunately went out through injury, and then he came back in, did okay, but was then out again.
"It's a shame for him because he has that vision and creativity you need at Premier League level.
"You need game-changers and players who will make a difference and Stephen is one of those."
Hughes knows Ireland will be particularly disappointed not to take on City on Wednesday, adding: "You always want to do well against your former club, whatever level you're at.
"When you face your former club you want to show everyone there is life still in you and you are doing well at other places.
"I was certainly like that as a player, and Stephen will be no different.
"It's disappointing he's out, but he will be back in a couple of weeks. It's nothing too serious."
Hughes, meanwhile, has confirmed he is closing in on signing a new contract with the Potters.
"We've had further discussions and got down to the detail of it," said Hughes.
"They're ongoing, with a willingness on both sides to get something done sooner rather than later, certainly from (my) point of view.
"So yes, there's progress and it's going well."