Belfast Telegraph

Hughes hopeful over trio

Stoke boss Mark Hughes is optimistic Glenn Whelan, Erik Pieters and Phil Bardsley will all be fit for selection for Saturday's Barclays Premier League clash with Burnley at the Britannia Stadium.

Hughes says Whelan, who has been out since last month due to a broken leg, "should be an option" and certainly expects Pieters and Bardsley to be available, despite the pair picking up knocks in the 2-1 win at Tottenham on November 9.

However, it is anticipated that Marc Wilson will not feature because of the hamstring problem he sustained against Spurs, while Dionatan Teixeira (broken foot), Robert Huth (calf) and Peter Odemwingie (knee) definitely remain sidelined.

Hughes also revealed his delight that those who were away on national service have returned in fine physique ahead of the clash with the Clarets.

"They have all come back without too many issues to be perfectly honest," he said.

"Obviously you want the guys to be fit and well because we have a big game at the weekend, and they understand that so they have come back with the mind-set that we need to do as well as we can in the game.

"You always have your fingers crossed that the lads come back fit and well when they are away with their countries, and thankfully they appear to have done so which is a positive for us."

Burnley are hopeful Nathaniel Chalobah and Scott Arfield will be fit.

Chelsea loanee Chalobah was injured playing for England Under-21s during the international break, while Arfield picked up a knock in training, but both have recovered well.

Long-term absentees Sam Vokes (knee) and Matt Taylor (Achilles) remain out, but Steven Reid is now fully fit after a groin complaint.

Boss Sean Dyche believes his side's victory over Hull can act as a calling card for their Premier League credentials.

The Clarets' top-flight return went without a win for the first 10 games of the season but, just as questions were being asked about whether it might stay that way until May, they turned over the Tigers before the international break.

Dyche is too pragmatic a coach to get carried away, especially with his side still propping up the rest of the division, but he is content that the 1-0 success shows Burnley are not out of their depth among the elite.

"One win isn't like we've won the World Cup, one win is us laying a marker down and now we're looking to move it forward," he said.

"You get that first win and everybody feels a bit better about life.

"That's all we were looking for, that first marker to say we're in the Premier League and we're in here for a reason.

"The players have had a lot of exposure for the wrong reasons this season, with this talk of 'could they win a game, when would they win a game?'.

"It's all so heavily covered that players can get influenced by that over time. I don't think mine have but they could be."

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