Mounting injury problems leave Mark Hughes facing defensive headache
Stoke's worsening injury problems have given Mark Hughes a defensive headache for the trip to resurgent Chelsea.
Wednesday's 1-0 victory against Newcastle stretched City's winning run in the Barclays Premier League to a third match, but the latest three points came at a cost.
Phil Bardsley is facing a number of weeks out after being forced off midway through the first half with a calf injury, while Geoff Cameron is a doubt for the trip to west London due to his troublesome ankle.
Stoke captain Ryan Shawcross is currently in Germany for consultation on his back injury and is a question mark for Stamford Bridge, where Glen Johnson and Marc Wilson will also be unavailable through injury.
"We've got five fit defenders at the moment and some of them aren't fit," Hughes said with a chuckle. "100 per cent fit, if you take my gist.
"We are a little bit stretched, it is fair to say, but the guys are putting their hand up and getting out there, so that's good.
"Phil, unfortunately, is unavailable. He has pulled his calf so he is going to be out for a number of weeks.
"Geoff Cameron is really, really sore once again but we suspected that would be the case after two games in a short space of time.
"We felt if he'd just been able to play in the centre-back position maybe it would have been better for him, but obviously once Phil got injured and had to come off then he had to get down the right-hand side and look to put crosses in.
"That was always going to compromise his injury because that's when he feels the pain, when he opens up and tries to drive balls across his body. That's the one movement he gets a little compromised with.
"He came through it, he once again got 90 minutes under his belt, but, like he was at the weekend, he is very sore this morning.
"Twenty-four hours is a long time in football - we're hoping he is going to be okay."
Charlie Adam and Shay Given are other Stoke players out injured with calf and knee issues, respectively.
The latter has been out since damaging his knee during the Republic of Ireland's famous 1-0 victory against world champions Germany in October, helping Martin O'Neill's side reach Euro 2016.
The goalkeeper celebrates his 40th birthday next month and completed a period of rehabilitation at the Aspetar orthopaedic and sports medical hospital in Qatar last month as he attempts to battle his way back from knee surgery.
"Shay is back out on the grass, which is encouraging," Hughes said of Given's recovery. "He is working with Andy Quy, our goalkeeping coach.
"It's early days yet. He's not doing all elements of the sessions with them at the moment but he is back on the grass, which is encouraging for him.
"It has been a long time but we're hopeful that before the end of the season he will be fit and available."