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World Cup 2018

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Stoke cannot afford to lose Joe Allen, says Mark Hughes

Mark Hughes has issued a hands-off warning to rival Premier League clubs interested in Joe Allen and outlined his own plans to strengthen Stoke's squad in January.

Former Liverpool midfielder Allen has impressed this term despite the Potters' struggles and recent reports have linked the 27-year-old with a switch to West Ham.

Stoke boss Hughes has made it clear he is unwilling to let any of his key players leave next month with the club just three points above the relegation zone.

However the Welshman, who has been linked with a move for Liverpool forward Danny Ings in the upcoming transfer window, is keen to add to his own options.

"There is nothing definite at the moment, but it is clear that we are too stretched and ideally we would like to rectify that," said Hughes on the club's official website.

"We all know that January isn't the ideal time to get deals done, but there are opportunities and we would like to be active - we feel there are areas that we need to strengthen."

On the rumours surrounding Wales international Allen, Hughes said: "It is the first I have heard of that, but it wouldn't surprise me because he has been impressive this year.

"We can't afford to lose a player of Joe's quality - he is working exceptionally hard for us and we are really pleased with what he is producing for us at the moment.

"We won't be encouraging any bids for any of our key players, especially not in January, that is for certain."

Stoke head to reigning champions Chelsea on Saturday looking to build on a haul of four points from their past two games over the festive period.

They will have to make do without defenders Ryan Shawcross (calf), Bruno Martins Indi (groin) and Kurt Zouma (ineligible) at Stamford Bridge and Hughes admits it will be a challenge.

"We are obviously desperate to get a number of key players who are missing through injury back to full fitness," he said.

"Once we do that then I am confident of enjoying a really productive second half of the season.

"Obviously Chelsea will be difficult, but Newcastle straight after, we have to make sure we are ready for that and really kick on in the new year.

"We have a real sense of determination within the group, and we have seen that over the past week or two."

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