MARK HUGHES has confirmed that Erik Pieters looks likely to miss out on a place in his starting eleven on Saturday after suffering a groin injury against Cardiff City during the midweek stalemate.
The Dutch international was forced off during the half-time interval at the Britannia Stadium, with former Barcelona defender Marc Muniesa coming on as his replacement.
The Spanish youngster looks primed to deputise from the off this time around however, after Hughes revealed that Pieters' chances of featuring against Chelsea are at the moment, 'incredibly remote'.
"At the moment I would say that it is doubtful that he will be fit enough in time to feature at the weekend, because of the nature of his injury," he told Stoke City Player in the build-up to the game.
"You never know, he may turn up tomorrow morning and feel fine, but at the moment that doesn't appear to be very likely.
"We will make a late decision on him though, it all depends upon how he is when he comes in on Saturday."
He added: "If he isn't available then Marc [Muniesa], as he has already shown, is an equally as adept playing in that position too."
The Welshman delivered promising news on the availability of Jonathan Walters however, after his record run of Premier League starts came to a halt on Wednesday.
"Jon will be fine," he added. "He wasn't quite right in the week, but he has come through training now without any affects so I don't envisage him being a problem tomorrow."
Marko Arnautovic is also expected to be fine after suffering no effects of the injury that sidelined him from the 4-0 defeat against Everton a week ago.