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Fitness battle beckons for Etherington

Stoke City winger Matthew Etherington will take a late fitness test on a back injury before Wednesday’s tough trip to Arsenal.

Etherington was forced off during the first-half of Saturday’s FA Cup victory over Brighton and Stoke manager Tony Pulis revealed the problem stems from his jaw.

Pulis said: “I’m old fashioned and it amazes me, but I’m told Matty’s jaw line is slightly out of place, which can affect his back and then his hamstrings and also his calf muscles.”

“He’s seen a specialist and we’ve got a brace for Matty’s back, which should sort out the problem. We aren’t ruling him out for tomorrow yet, but we certainly won’t take any chances with him.”

Etherington is likely to be on the bench at best at the Emirates Stadium, with Jon Walters reverting to the left flank and John Carew alone in attack.

Stoke midfielder Dean Whitehead will return after he was rested for the Brighton game and Asmir Begovic is set to be recalled in goal at the expense of Thomas Sorensen.

Pulis recognised Arsenal’s fixture pile-up could benefit his own side, but is expecting a tough encounter nonetheless.

“We are still talking about a very difficult game,” he said.

“Arsenal are a top draw side who are on the crest of a wave. Beating Barcelona last week was a fantastic achievement and it was a fabulous game of football.”

“It’s going to be very tough for us, but our lads are in great heart. If we play well, have a bit of luck, and Arsenal are not quite at their best, we will have a chance.”

Article title: Fitness battle beckons for Etherington

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