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Stoke City facing defensive crisis for Chelsea visit with just one centre back available

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Newcastle United v Stoke City - Premier League Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images

Former Chelsea (and Manchester United) striker Mark Hughes is one of the latest converts to the School of 3-4-3, but he might have to rethink his plans for Saturday’s match against Chelsea with just one senior center back available to him. His regular starters keep dropping like flies and while Kurt Zouma is healthy, he’s ineligible to play against his parent club.

Ryan Shawcross and Geoff Cameron, who have been playing the center the line, are both out with back and hamstring injuries, respectively, while Kevin Wimmer, recently of Spurs, also picked up a hamstring strain in Tuesday’s loss to lower league Bristol City in the League Cup. That leaves Bruno Martins Indi as the only center back confirmed to be available tomorrow, with usual left wing-back Erik Pieters possibly slotting in next to him on one side. That still leaves one more defender missing, unless Sparky switches to a four-man backline, though that’s something they haven’t done all season.

With a bevy of talented attackers available to him, Hughes could very well decide to go for broke and try to outscore Chelsea. So, as Conte will no doubt say in a few hours in his own press conference, we’re going to have pay great attention still.