Stoke eye permanent Ireland signing

Mark Hughes has confirmed Stoke City are keen to tie up a permanent deal for Stephen Ireland in order to facilitate a fresh loan signing.

Ireland, whose contract at Aston Villa expires at the end of the campaign, is one of two players - together with Liverpool winger Oussama Assaidi - on a season-long loan at the Britannia Stadium.

Premier League clubs are only allowed to have two loanees in their squad at one time, barring exceptional circumstances, meaning Stoke cannot currently bring in another player on a temporary basis.

Manager Hughes is therefore looking to complete the permanent signing of Ireland from Villa, where he has fallen out of favour, as soon as possible.

In a press conference on Friday, Hughes said: "We are looking to get things done with Stephen on a permanent basis, and we are hopeful of being able to do that.

"It would free up a domestic loan space for us, which could be important for us.

"We would like to use that loan space on somebody who we feel could come in here and help us over the next few months."

Stoke have been linked with a host of names in the January transfer window, including Manchester City forward John Guidetti, a player Hughes knows from his time at the Etihad Stadium.

Hughes would also be keen on capturing Assaidi on a permanent deal should the Moroccan choose to leave Liverpool.

"Ozzie's intention, certainly when he came here, was to go back to Liverpool and try and force his way back in there," the Welshman added.

"I haven't spoken to him since, but if he does change that view then we will look to do something in the summer if at all possible."

Stoke will once again be without the injured Andy Wilkinson (foot) when Liverpool visit on Sunday, but defender Robert Huth (knee) and goalkeeper Thomas Sorensen (Achilles) have trained and could come into contention.