(Reuters) - Stoke City manager Mark Hughes is facing a defensive crisis ahead of Saturday’s Premier League game against Southampton as a dearth of fit central defenders leaves him sweating on the fitness of several key players.
Already without Kevin Wimmer (hamstring), Geoff Cameron (hamstring) and Ryan Shawcross (back) against Chelsea last week, Stoke also lost Bruno Martins Indi when he suffered a groin injury in the 4-0 defeat.
While there is no clear picture on the fitness of his back line ahead of Southampton’s visit, Hughes will at least be able to call on French defender Kurt Zouma, who was unavailable to play against parent club Chelsea last Saturday.
“We have Kurt back, which is a big bonus for us, and it was unfortunate that the injury situation we found ourselves in coincided with the Chelsea game when he was unavailable,” Hughes told the club’s website (stokecityfc.com).
“He’s a definite for Saturday and clearly we’re hoping we don’t get any further injuries from now to the weekend.”
Hughes, whose side are 16th in the table with five points from six games, said he had never been hit with such a flood of injuries at the centre back position.
“You always get injuries, I’ve been doing this for a long time and in terms of central defenders, I’ve never known anything like having most of them unavailable,” he said.
“You sometimes have one or two players in the same positions injured, but to have as many as we did unavailable last weekend was difficult to take and obviously we’re stronger with more senior players available.”
Reporting by Shrivathsa Sridhar in Bengaluru; Editing by Peter Rutherford