Shawcross could return against Liverpool

The Stoke captain has handed his side a timely boost as they prepare to face the Merseysiders, one of their key rivals in the race for a Europa League spot this season

Stoke captain Ryan Shawcross is in line to make his return from injury when his side lock horns against Liverpool on Sunday.

The defender has only featured in one Premier League encounter since January as he continues to battle with a persistent back injury.

But manager Mark Hughes has confirmed Shawcross' recovery is going better than expected and says he is considering fielding him in Stoke's upcoming clash against Liverpool at Anfield.

"He has had a good week," Hughes said of his 28-year-old skipper. "It is about whether he can cope with the work that we give him and he has come through all of that this week. 

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"He is available for Sunday. I spoke earlier in the week about maybe needing to give him a reserve team game, but given how he has progressed I don't think there is a need for that. He is certainly in my thoughts for the game."

However, Hughes did reveal key forward Marko Arnautovic was unlikely to face Jurgen Klopp's men.

"He twisted his knee last weekend during the game," replied Hughes when asked about the Austria international.

"He played on, but afterwards there was a bit of discomfort which is still there. Maybe the game on Sunday will be too soon for him. We hope he is available but we will make a decision closer to kick-off with Marko."

Stoke have only lost one of their last seven league encounters and earned seven points from their last three away contests.