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OFFICIAL club website of stoke city

Tony's Etherington Hope

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TONY PULIS has confirmed that Matthew Etherington will undergo a late fitness test ahead of this weekend's Barclays Premier League encounter against Newcastle United.

The former England Under-21 international was absent from the side in their last outing against West Ham United, having picked up a back injury during the 1-0 defeat at Fulham a week earlier.

He has however trained with the rest of the squad in the build-up to the clash at St James. Park, although Pulis stopped short of confirming whether he would thrust him straight back into the starting eleven.

"We are desperate to get Matty back into the side again, because he is a real important player for us, and he gives us great balance which we have been lacking." he told the media at Friday afternoon's pre-match press conference.

"He has had a problem which has been concerning, but he has had a few injections and has trained with the rest of the lads over the last couple of days.

"It's too early to say whether he will be involved on Sunday. We are obviously hoping that he is, but we will have to wait and see."

Meanwhile Robert Huth is a certain absentee as he serves the second of a three-match suspension for violent conduct, although striker Michael Owen comes back into the equation following a minor injury.

"Michael has trained this week which has been pleasing, but again he hasn't had a game," the City boss added.

"He is an option for us, but there are one or two other players too, who would like to be involved. We will look at things over the next 24 hours and then make a decision."

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