TONY PULIS is keeping "fingers crossed" that Matthew Etherington will get the green light to face Aston Villa at The Britannia Stadium on Saturday.
The winger missed last weekend's narrow defeat at Everton due to a back and groin injury that the Stoke boss has revealed is still a cause for concern.
But Pulis has not ruled him out of his plans for the crunch clash with Villa and hopes to receive positive news on that front on Friday.
Speaking at his pre-match media conference ahead of the all-Midlands encounter, the City boss said: "Matty is a little bit of a problem for us that we hope is resolved by tomorrow, fingers crossed.
"But whoever is fit will really go out there and give it a go.
"It's a big test, not just for the players but the supporters and everyone else. We stick together and show what we are - and that's a club that when called upon stands together."
Pulis would dearly love to see Etherington return to his plans for the visit of Villa but insists he won't take unnecessary risks with the former West Ham man.
He added: "We want to have Matty in the team because he gives us balance on that left-hand side. On his day, especially at our place with the supporters behind him, he's a real handful.
"The problem is his back and his groin and it's very, very important that we don't rush him because we've got seven games left."
Stoke have no other injury concerns ahead of the Villa game, although Pulis insists the club will continue to adopt a cautious approach over Brek Shea.
The US international underwent surgery on a foot injury in November and Pulis revealed: "Although we've given him opportunities and chances, he's still a little bit short.
"We knew that when we signed him. He had an operation on his foot behind one of his toes which is still a little bit sore. The ground being so hard hasn't helped him and I think he has found that a little bit difficult.
"He has trained well today but we've got to look after the kid. He hasn't done a full season, he was out for six or seven months, so he needs a bit of time."