Mark Hughes dismisses concerns over Ryan Shawcross' long-term durability

Stoke boss Mark Hughes does not believe Ryan Shawcross' recent injury problems give cause for concern looking forward.

Club captain Shawcross, for so long a virtual ever-present rock at the heart of the Potters defence, has only made 16 appearances this term.

The 28-year missed the start of the season having undergone back surgery over the summer.

And after returning to action in October, he picked up another back problemtowards the end of last month that was expected to rule him out for three tofour weeks.

Speaking ahead of today's match against Aston Villa, Hughes said he hoped Shawcross might be able to return in another week's time.

When asked if he had concerns over Shawcross in the long-term, Hughes said:

Hughes - also without defenders Marc Muniesa (hamstring), Glen Johnson and Marc Wilson (both knee), but hopeful of having Geoff Cameron (ankle) available this weekend - added:

Stoke City's Ibrahim Afellay celebrates scoring his side's second goal against Bournemouth. Credit: PA

Stoke have not played since their 3-1 Premier League victory at Bournemouth on February 13, with Hughes taking his players away to a warm-weather training camp in Dubai in between.

The Welshman has no doubt it was a beneficial experience and is optimistic it will have a positive effect as the Potters - currently 10th - look to finish the season strongly.

They return to action against a Villa side in dire straits, lying eight pointsadrift of safety at the foot of the table with 12 matches to go.

Asked if he thought Villa are doomed, Hughes said:

Meanwhile, Hughes has given his reaction to Stoke's announcement that their season ticket prices have been frozen for a ninth successive year.

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