Mark Hughes has hinted at a return to the Stoke City starting XI for captain Ryan Shawcross against Chelsea on Tuesday.
Shawcross has yet to feature for Stoke this season after undergoing surgery on the troublesome back injury that hampered him during the closing months of the 2014-15 campaign.
But the 28-year-old has been making steady progress in his recovery, and manager Hughes is hopeful he will be able to field his skipper during this week's fourth-round League Cup tie with beleaguered Chelsea.
"Ryan Shawcross is very much in my thoughts - he needs games now and needs to get back up to speed," said the Stoke boss on Monday. "He is chomping at the bit - he wants to be involved."
Shawcross' chances of a return were boosted by a thigh injury to fellow defender Geoff Cameron during Saturday's 2-0 defeat to Watford in the Premier League, and Hughes also confirmed there are doubts over Marc Muniesa and Bojan Krkic.
The Welshman added: "It looks like a grade one so maybe he [Cameron] will have a chance for the weekend.
"Marc Muniesa has a slight issue too, but we will give him 24 hours to come through that. Bojan has an issue with his toe, which is hampering him, but apart from that we are okay."
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