Mark Hughes says Xherdan Shaqiri will be given until the eleventh hour to prove his fitness for Stoke’s clash with Leicester on Saturday.
Shaqiri, recently sidelined by a hamstring problem, returned to training on Thursday and the club record signing is hopeful of being involved for the first time in four matches this weekend.
Three days after the Premier League contest at the King Power Stadium, Stoke are at Liverpool for the second leg of a Capital One Cup semi-final they currently trail 1-0.
They then have an FA Cup tie at Crystal Palace followed by a league fixture at Manchester United, another Saturday-Tuesday double-header that takes them up to February 2.
Hughes said on Thursday: “We have a big period coming up.
“After the festive period there is usually a little bit of a lull, but it is still continuing for us and there are huge games to come. So we are going to need the squad. But you have to take each game as it comes.”
With regard to availability for the next game, Hughes delivered a positive, but cagey report on Shaqiri.
He also indicated care will have to be taken over the coming days with forward Marko Arnautovic, and that midfielder Geoff Cameron will once again miss out on Saturday.
“Shaqiri trained today, so we’re hopeful he won’t get a reaction and then I’ll make a decision as to whether he’s ready. Obviously he’s anxious to get back in,” he said.
“Marko has a slight hamstring problem that we are managing, but we have to be careful with that. We have this big period coming up, so we’ll have to see.
“He has trained. There’s a little bit of an issue there, but he has carried it for a number of weeks and still played, so he should be okay. Geoff still has an issue with his ankle and we are trying to resolve that, but it is not progressing too quickly, so we’ll need to investigate that further.”
Meanwhile, Hughes says reports Stoke have had a bid for Burnley defender Michael Keane rejected are untrue, but insists the Potters, still yet to make a signing in the January transfer window, are “actively looking” for new players.
When asked about the Keane story, Hughes said: “I’m not quite sure where that’s come from. My understanding is that is not true.”
He then had other names being linked with Stoke – Southampton’s Shane Long, West Brom’s Saido Berahino and Porto’s Giannelli Imbula – put to him, and said: “All good players, all at good clubs, and the clubs they are at will probably feel they want to keep them there.
“It is inappropriate for me to talk about individual players, other than to say we’re in the market for good players. We are actively looking. We think there are opportunities if everything falls into place, but there are a lot of factors.
“We never get too ahead of ourselves because we know the potential pitfalls of the transfer process. We just have to be patient. If it happens, we’ll be delighted. If we have to bide our time until the summer, so be it.”