Stoke City captain Ryan Shawcross has flown to Germany to see a specialist in the hope of speeding up his recover from a back injury.
The centre back has been out of action since coming off in the first half of Stoke’s Premier League defeat to Leicester City in late January.
Manager Mark Hughes was hopeful of having Shawcross available for selection next weekend.
He said: “We don’t think he’s available at the weekend but certainly after this weekend if he’s not involved then we think he’s got a good chance.”
Shawcross’ potential return from injury couldn’t come at a better time for the Potters as Hughes revealed they only have five fit defenders.
He added: “We’ve got five fit defenders and some of them aren’t fit, 100 per cent fit if you take my gist.
“So we are a little bit stretched it’s fair to say, but the guys are putting their hand up and getting out there so that’s good.”
Right back Phil Bardsley has been ruled out for a few weeks with a calf injury and Hughes has doubts over whether American utility man Geoff Cameron will be fit for Saturday’s trip to Chelsea.
He said: “Geoff Cameron is really really sore once again, but we suspected that would be the case after two games in such a short space of time.
“He came through it and got 90 minutes under his belt, but like he was at the weekend he’s very sore this morning.
“24 hours is a long time in football and we’re hoping he’s going to be ok.”
Despite the injuries, Hughes revealed that his side are bang on track in terms of their aims for the season.
He said: “We chopped the season up into manageable chunks and we try and overachieve in every phase that we have during a season.
“We’re tracking higher than what we thought we would be at this point, so we’re pleased with that and we’ve got to maintain it.”
Click on the video below for more from Mark Hughes:
(Additional reporting by Mark Blackburn)