Hughes hoping Assaidi can fill Ireland void

Mark Hughes hopes Oussama Assaidi can fill the gap left by Stephen Ireland when Stoke City face Aston Villa on Sunday.

The winger, who is on a season-long loan from Liverpool, has not featured for Stoke since the 1-1 draw with Swansea City in mid-February due to a knee injury, but could return at Villa Park this weekend.

Should Assaidi be available, he is likely to take the place of Ireland, who is ineligible to face the side he left to join Stoke.

Although Ireland completed a permanent move to the Britannia Stadium in January following a successful loan spell, Villa moved to ensure he would not be available for Stoke's visit.

Manager Hughes admits the absence of Ireland - a key figure in last Saturday's win over West Ham - will be a blow, but Assaidi may be able to offer a timely boost.

"Villa stipulated that they wouldn't want Stephen to play against them when we agreed the deal in January," Hughes revealed.

"I can understand that to be honest, but it is still a disappointment to be without him because he was exceptional last weekend.

"We are waiting on Oussama Assaidi at the moment. He has trained again this week and is progressing.

"We just need to make sure that he is fully ready to come into the side, and that is what we will be looking into over the next 24 hours or so."