Mark Hughes cautious over Jack Butland's return to action
Stoke boss Mark Hughes has emphasised Jack Butland may have to wait until after this season for a return to first-team action.
Potters and England goalkeeper Butland, who has been sidelined since breaking his ankle while on international duty just under a year ago, revealed on Monday that his fracture has completely healed.
Butland, who turns 24 later this week, said on Twitter: ''Surgeon couldn't be happier with my ankle, fracture completely healed and free to progress! Best early birthday present ever.
''Been a horrendous year of setbacks but finally got the news I've been waiting for! Now I can get the gloves back on and out on the pitch.''
That came 10 days on from Hughes, when asked about Butland, saying he could be available for selection again by around the middle of March.
But, speaking on Monday after the player had tweeted, Hughes made it clear he was very much keeping an open mind in terms of Butland returning to the first-team picture - particularly given the way Lee Grant has impressed in the Stoke goal this term.
"We're pleased Jack's at a point where it looks, hopefully, like it's not a false dawn this time and we can really look forward to him being back available for selection," Hughes said at his press conference to preview Wednesday's Premier League trip to Manchester City.
"At that point, we'll have a discussion.
"But Lee's done exceptionally well. We're delighted with what he's produced.
"If we feel there's an option to maybe give Jack the opportunity to have games before the end of the season, whether or not we take it, or think 'let's make sure he's right for pre-season'...
"There's any number of options that may well be open to us.
"But until we see him progressing and working on the training ground on a regular basis, we really haven't got an answer to that."
Hughes confirmed Stoke winger Xherdan Shaqiri will be available for Wednesday's game with Manchester City after missing the last five due to a calf problem.
But Bruno Martins Indi has been rated as "very doubtful" for the contest having picked up a knee injury in Saturday's 2-0 win over Middlesbrough. Hughes says the defender "should be okay in a number of days".
Winger Marko Arnautovic (illness), scorer of a brace against Boro, and full-back Glen Johnson (shoulder) will be assessed.
Striker Wilfried Bony, who was left out of the squad for a third successive match on Saturday, is on loan from City and so ineligible for the game at the Etihad Stadium.
Along with Bony, Giannelli Imbula did not make the match day 18 at the weekend. The 24-year-old midfielder, signed for a club record £18.3million in February 2016, has made only one league appearance so far in 2017.
Asked on Monday if there was a problem in terms of Imbula, Hughes said: "No, not really.
"Clearly, we wanted Gi to be involved at first-team level, and really pushing to get in the first 11.
"That hasn't happened for him as well as we would have hoped, and at the weekend, it was just a case that we needed to cover other eventualities and he missed out.
"But that's not to say that he won't be involved on Wednesday."