Stoke defender Robert Huth could be out of action for the rest of the season, according to club chairman Peter Coates.
Huth has not featured for the first team since sustaining a knee injury in November which led to him having surgery.
The 29-year-old centre-back played 45 minutes of a behind-closed-doors friendly on Feb. 25, but is yet to return to the Potters' matchday squad.
"It is my understanding that it is very unlikely he will feature again this season," Coates told The Sentinel. "If that is the case, then all the focus now is getting him ready for next season."
Huth has missed 20 matches in all competitions since limping off in Stoke's 2-0 home Premier League win over Sunderland on Nov. 23. Marc Wilson has been playing at centre-half in the German's absence.
Coates added: "It will be good to have him [Huth] available again because, along with Ryan Shawcross and Asmir Begovic, he has long been part of the backbone of our team.
"But the fact we have done so well without him is a tribute to the team in general and to Marc Wilson in particular."
Stoke are six points clear of the relegation zone in 12th place with nine games left to go this term.