Stoke City look set to start the season without inspirational leader Ryan Shawcross after undergoing scans with suggestions he will require back injury.
The 27-year-old has had recurring back issues ever since January when he came off injured against QPR. The once capped England international made a comeback in March and was able to finish off the season, yet the issue has re-emerged following problems with Stoke’s pre-season regime.
However chairman Peter Coates has spoken out against claims of mismanagement from the club
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"We thought the management he was having was going to work, but unfortunately he's still got a problem.” The Stoke Sentinel reported.
"But what they did previously was the right thing. You do not want to be talking about operating on somebody until you have exhausted all other routes.” He continued.
Stoke are currently waiting on the results for these scans, however it is no longer a question of if, but how long he will be out for.
Likely replacements for Shawcross would be either Marc Muniesa, Marc Wilson or Philipp Wollscheid. The latter signed for Stoke in May from German side Bayern Leverkusen after spending the second half of the season on loan.
Stoke’s defensive partnerships fluctuated last season but Spaniard Muniesa ended the season as Shawcross’ partner. Muniesa would be most likely to replace him, with new singing Wollscheid alongside.
Speaking to BBC Radio Stoke, keeper Jack Butland insisted there were no worries despite his importance to the side "To lose him is a big loss but we've got players capable of filling the void.”
Stoke begin their season at home to Liverpool this Sunday, where they finished last season with an emphatic 6-1 win. Stoke will be hoping they can condemn Liverpool to another defeat, although a similar score line is unlikely, especially without captain Shawcross.