Injury-hit Stoke set to field youth players against Chelsea

Injury-hit Stoke set to field youth players against Chelsea
FILE PHOTO - Soccer Football - Premier League - Huddersfield Town vs Stoke City - John Smith’s Stadium, Huddersfield, Britain - December 26, 2017 Stoke City manager Mark Hughes REUTERS/David Klein
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(Reuters) – Stoke City manager Mark Hughes is facing a defensive crisis ahead of Saturday’s Premier League game at Chelsea and could be forced to thrust youth team players into the mix at Stamford Bridge.

Skipper Ryan Shawcross injured his calf in Tuesday’s 1-1 draw with Huddersfield Town, while Dutch international Bruno Martins Indi’s groin injury is more serious than initially feared and he will be out for a few weeks.

On-loan France international Kurt Zouma is ineligible to play against his parent club, while former Chelsea defender Glen Johnson is out with a knee injury.

“It is quite a big crisis for us,” Hughes told a news conference on Friday. “We are in a really difficult position and we may be forced into calling upon a couple of our younger players, who will have to come in and do a job for us.

“It is going to be a big ask because even with our best eleven this would be incredibly tough, but we will still go down there, be positive and give it a real good go.”

Left back Erik Pieters, who picked up a knock in the 3-0 defeat by West Ham United this month, has an outside chance of making the squad but Hughes is not optimistic.

“The game may well come a little too early for him, especially with the game on Monday too,” Hughes added.

Stoke, who have lost three out of their last five league games, are 13th in the table on 20 points. Chelsea are third with 42 points.

(Reporting by Shrivathsa Sridhar in Bengaluru; Editing by John O’Brien)

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