Stoke City goalkeeper Jack Butland is likely to make his return from a long-term ankle injury before the end of the season, manager Mark Hughes said on Friday.
Butland, who was expected to return at the start of the campaign, made 36 appearances for Stoke last season before sustaining an ankle problem while on international duty with England last March.
Complications during his recovery have kept him on the sidelines for a year.
“He’s doing very well, he’s back with us. He had three weeks in Qatar to push his recovery on and then he had the green light to really up his work on the grass,” Hughes told reporters.
Lee Grant has been an impressive substitute in Butland’s absence with eight clean sheets in 24 appearances.
“He (Butland) starts his days with the physios and then towards the end of the session he goes with goalkeeping coach Andy Quy for more specific work and that’s our plan for the next 12 days or so,” Hughes said.
“Hopefully, by the end of that, he will be back with the group and won’t be too far away.”
Winger Xherdan Shaqiri, who has been sidelined with recurring calf problems since January, will return for Saturday’s Premier League clash against leaders Chelsea while full-back Glen Johnson remains out with a shoulder injury.