Mark Hughes is wary of rushing back Mame Biram Diouf and Ryan Shawcross ahead of Stoke City’s Premier League clash with Watford.
Stoke welcome Watford to the Britannia Stadium on Saturday in the first of three games over eight days.
Chelsea then visit Hughes’ men in the League Cup on Tuesday before Stoke travel to St James’ Park to take on Newcastle next weekend.
Senegal striker Diouf has been on compassionate leave following the death of his mother, while centre-back Shawcross is finally in contention to play for the first time this season after recovering from back surgery.
Asked about their potential involvement, Hughes said: “Mame is back with us now but we have to be mindful of where he is physically and mentally. He is training, but he hasn’t trained a great deal over the past couple of weeks.
“I am mindful that we have three games this week, so that will shape my thinking.
“The same goes for Ryan Shawcross, too, because he feels he is ready, but we don’t want to rush him. He will play at some point over the coming week I am sure of that.”
Following a slow start, Stoke are targeting a fifth straight win in all competitions and Hughes believes the club can make further strides.
“In terms of points on the board we had a slow start, but performance wise I thought we were okay,” he added.
“Thankfully we have managed to turn good performances into good results. If we can win the game on Saturday then it would represent our best ever points return after the first 10 games of the season – that would be a great achievement for us.
“We will continue to try and push the bar higher because we don’t want to stand still. There may well come a time that we will hit a glass ceiling, but we are nowhere near that yet.”
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