Saturday 24 February 2018

Defensive dilemma irks Stoke boss Mark Hughes

Ryan Shawcross is the latest defensive doubt at Stoke
Ryan Shawcross is the latest defensive doubt at Stoke

Mark Hughes has bemoaned Stoke's persistent defensive injuries, with captain Ryan Shawcross the latest doubt.

The Potters have shipped 20 goals in 10 matches heading into Saturday's clash with Leicester, a number only topped by rock-bottom Crystal Palace.

That statistic may be inflated by the 7-2 thrashing from a rampant Manchester City side but it is still a poor return given the club's investment in three central defenders - Kurt Zouma, Kevin Wimmer and Bruno Martins Indi - in the summer.

All three have been unavailable at some point, while Shawcross is now battling a thigh complaint having already missed seven weeks of the season with a back problem.

"It has been difficult for us to be fair because clearly we have had so many injuries in that area," Hughes told

"At the start of the season people suggested we had maybe too many defenders, but thank goodness we have them because we have needed them all.

"If you look at the teams who are doing OK, and being acknowledged for having a good start, for the best part they have had a settled back four or five.

"It is a huge thing and if you can have that continuity then it is a huge help - we need that now to help move us on."

Shawcross felt pain in his thigh after last weekend's win at Watford and has worked a reduced schedule at training in recent days.

Hughes would prefer to retain his skipper alongside Zouma and Wimmer but has a ready-made replacement if needed.

"We want to keep as near as possible to what we went with at Watford, but we have a few bumps and bruises, and Ryan is obviously one of those," said Hughes.

"Hopefully we can get Ryan out there again this weekend, because we saw the impact he has upon the group last week, and it won't help us if we are forced to change it again.

"We are hopeful he will be OK, although we have the option of Bruno Martins Indi, who is fit and available, to come in if Ryan doesn't make it."

Press Association

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