Stoke City manager Mark Hughes insists Jese Rodriguez is still in his plans, despite growing speculation of an imminent move during the January transfer window.
Reports suggest former Real Madrid forward Jese, who is on loan from Ligue 1 giants Paris Saint-Germain, could have his deal cut short.
Still, this weekend, the 24-year-old Spaniard is a chance to make his first appearance since coming on as a substitute against Liverpool in November.
“We’re not quite sure how much work he’s been able to do,” Hughes said. “It’s been difficult for him as he’s been in hospital for most of that time.
“He’s not quite where he needs to be to be a factor for us. He might get back to the level he needs to be at very soon, hopefully.”
Jese was handed disciplinary action for leaving the dressing room upon realising he would not come on as a substitute against Swansea City earlier this month, but was also granted compassionate leave for his son Nyan – suffering health complications after a premature birth.
In spite of reports he could see out the season with his hometown Las Palmas under their new boss Paco Jemez, Hughes believes Jese wants to succeed in England.
“Clearly the Premier League is where he wants to be, with us,” Hughes said. It’s just unfortunate because of his family circumstances that he hasn’t been able to commit to what he’s needed to do here to be effective for us.
“You have to understand it’s something that couldn’t have been avoided. It seems like his family situation is settling down so he might be able to refocus now for a decent length of time.”
Hughes will need an optimal performance from all his players on Saturday, however, with the Potters facing reigning champions Chelsea at Stamford Bridge.