Stoke boss Mark Hughes defends decision to sideline Wilfried Bony
Stoke boss Mark Hughes feels Wilfried Bony has been "unlucky" since joining Stoke but has stressed the importance of players making the most of their opportunities.
The Potters signed Bony from Manchester City in August on a season-long loan deal and the striker started each of the next 10 games.
Having scored just twice in that time, he then dropped out of the first XI, and his only Stoke appearance since came as a substitute against Liverpool on December 27.
Bony was at the African Nations Cup with the Ivory Coast in January, then spent a couple of Stoke games as an unused substitute again before being left out of the matchday squad entirely.
Meanwhile, Peter Crouch has been scoring for the Staffordshire outfit and they have signed Saido Berahino.
On Thursday Bony was quoted by the BBC as saying of his situation: "When you hear everything is fine (from your manager) and you don't play, it's crazy."
When asked about that on Friday, Hughes said: "Wilf's been a little bit unlucky.
"He had a good run of games initially when he came here and it is fair to say he didn't score as many goals as he or I would have liked.
"He went out of the team and then he went to the African Nations Cup.
"Peter Crouch came into the side and did really well, and it has been difficult for Wilf to get back in. We have brought Saido Berahino into the club as well, so that is an extra striker on the books.
"So he is just going to have to be patient.
"When they are out of the side, good players get a little bit frustrated, but that's where he is at the moment.
"When opportunities present themselves, players have to take them. He'll get opportunities I'm sure before the end of the season."
Hughes confirmed Bony had been available for Sunday's 4-0 loss at Tottenham and that the 28-year-old's omission from the 18 was simply a selection decision.
Crouch started the game, while Berahino and Mame Diouf were on the bench.
"Wilf is behind a couple of players," said Hughes, who was speaking at his press conference to preview Saturday's home clash with Middlesbrough.
"He missed out last weekend as a consequence and I'm assuming that is why he has had a little bit of reaction in the press.
"It's difficult at the moment."
In his interview with the BBC, Bony said: "It is more than difficult. This is something that I want to know why, the coach told me I'm training very well and my attitude is very good. It doesn't make sense. It's painful."
Bony has a clause in his loan deal which meant he could be transferred to a Chinese Super League club during the last transfer window, and regarding that, he added : "My agent told me there was an offer but I refused to go because my plan is to stay in the UK to show more - to show that I'm not at the end."
Stoke winger Xherdan Shaqiri looks set to sit out once again on Saturday.
Shaqiri has missed the last four games due to a calf problem and, although he was due to train on Friday, it appears unlikely he will be involved against Boro.
Tenth-placed Stoke head into the contest having won only one of their previous five Premier League fixtures.