Pulis pins hopes on key duo
Striker Ricardo Fuller and midfielder Matthew Etherington hope to be fit in time for Stoke's relegation clash against Boro on Saturday.
Boss Tony Pulis is desperate to have all of his first-choice players available for the Britannia Stadium showdown, which is arguably the Potters' biggest of the season to date given that they could jump outside of the relegation places and five points ahead of second-bottom Middlesbrough.
Top scorer Fuller has featured as a substitute in the last three games having made a rapid recovery from a dislocated shoulder he picked up at Sunderland on February 7. And Pulis will wait to see if the Jamaican international is ready to start ahead of Mamady Sidibe alongside James Beattie after he suffered a knock to the shoulder in the 3-1 defeat at Everton last Saturday.
Etherington was forced out of the reserves' defeat to Portsmouth this week as he looked to build up his match fitness following a three-match ban.
He said: "Matty came off after half an hour of the reserves game which was a disappointment because we needed him to have a bit longer. We wanted to give him 45 minutes to an hour to get a bit more sharpness but I think he's ok.
"And I'm hoping Ric will be fit to start. Unfortunately he hurt his shoulder again when he came on at Everton so we'll put the ball in his court but if he's 110 per cent fit then I'm sure he'll want to start.
"If not then we'll have to go along with Ric but I have to say that every minute he plays for us is a bonus because I didn't think we'd see him again this season when he got injured at Sunderland."