Fri, 30 Nov 2012 18:22:00 – Michael Essien has returned to Chelsea from Real Madrid to have treatment on a mystery injury.
The midfielder is on a season-long loan at the Santiago Bernabeu, but this has been temporarily put on hold while Blues medical staff assess his condition.
Essien has been out for three weeks with what was believed to be a standard injury, although Real assistant boss Aitor Karanka suggested he had suffered an allergic reaction to medication.
The 29-year-old Ghanaian trained at Chelsea's Cobham headquarters on Friday.
Essien has made 10 appearances for Real Madrid this season, scoring one goal.
Three of McAusland's former Saints team-mates are in the City squad and all played in last weekend's 4-1 win over Forfar, which extended the Second Division Club's unbeaten run to seven games since former Dundee United midfielder Ray McKinnon took over from Jim Weir as manager.
They include 35-year-old former Newcastle and Tottenham midfielder Garry Brady, who made more than 100 appearances for St Mirren.
McAusland said: "Garry Brady, Craig Molloy and David McKenna are all still playing for Brechin and were at the club when I was here.
"They will definitely want to do a job over us and will feel confident coming back here. They will be familiar with a few faces and will want to get one over us.
"They are a good team with good players. They have been on a good run of form and have not been beaten under their new manager. It will be a hard test for us."
Saints go into the fourth-round clash in good spirits after turning around their six-game losing streak with a victory over Dundee and a goalless draw at Ross County that they felt they should have won.
McAusland admits it was difficult to stick to the passing philosophy of manager Danny Lennon and assistant Tommy Craig during their losing spell but he believes it was a good learning process.
"The way Tommy and the gaffer want us to play, it's difficult when the fans are on your back and you're thinking about the results and you don't want to lose again," the 24-year-old said.
"But hopefully we have come through the other side stronger for it and hopefully progress on Saturday. We have St Johnstone the following Saturday, it's two home games and hopefully we can get two wins and forget about the recent defeats."
The former England man was forced off the pitch five minutes before half-time after being caught in the mouth by a flailing arm from Magpies defender Fabricio Coloccini.
Crouch lost two teeth while two more were driven into his gum, but the striker and Potters boss Tony Pulis are hopeful he will be able to play wearing a brace.
"Peter's gone to see a specialist today and we're going to see, if he's comfortable enough, whether he can wear a brace. So we haven't given up hope that he can be involved," Pulis said.
"It's all about how he gets on with the brace. I spoke to him yesterday and he was very keen to be involved.
"Apart from that he feels fine so if he had a brace in there that will protect it, because if he gets another knock it could cause him more problems, but he was pretty positive.
"He's been an exceptional signing for this football club in lots of ways. He's a great lad and he wants to be part of it."
Whether Crouch is passed fit is likely to determine whether Michael Owen is included in the squad.
The striker has missed the last month with a hamstring problem and, although he is now fit, Owen will not be preferred to either Kenwyne Jones or Cameron Jerome, who both made big impacts off the bench on Wednesday.
Full-back Andy Wilkinson, who has missed the last two matches with a back problem, is not fit enough to start but may be among the substitutes.
Wednesday's 2-1 win made it 10 points from the last 12 for Stoke, who climbed up to ninth in the table.
It is their home form that has been the key, with the Potters winning four times at the Britannia Stadium, where they are unbeaten in the league this season, although they have yet to pick up a maximum haul on the road.
Pulis said: "We've played well away from home this season and I think we've been a little bit unfortunate. Some of our performances have been as good if not better than anything we've displayed in the Premier League.
"We just need a little bit of luck in front of goal and hopefully the two goals we scored on Wednesday will give us the confidence to go to West Brom and know we can score, because we've certainly been creating the chances."
Victory at The Hawthorns will be a big ask, though, given fourth-placed West Brom have been the surprise package of the season so far and have won six of their seven games at home.
Pulis praised the job done by his opposite number Steve Clarke, and gave credit to chairman Jeremy Peace for handing the former Chelsea and Liverpool assistant boss his managerial break.
"I've known Steve a long time, and he's been a coach and an assistant manager for a long time at big clubs," said Pulis. "He's been given his opportunity and he's taken it with both hands.
"He's done an absolutely fantastic job there. I think the chairman's got to take a bit of credit as well by taking a chance with Steve and he's certainly been rewarded.
"They're a bit like Newcastle were last year. They've got a great spirit in the team, the work ethic is first class. I've watched them twice and they've played exceptionally well. I'm really pleased for Steve.
"West Brom's a great football club, it's a lovely stadium to go to, it'll be a good atmosphere there and we'll look forward to the game."
Stoke do have history on their side, however, having won eight of their last 11 meetings with West Brom, including on all three of their previous Premier League visits to The Hawthorns.
West Brom did manage their first win over the Potters since 2003 at the Britannia Stadium in January, and Pulis added: "They deserved to beat us that day, they were better than us.
"We won't be taking anything for granted, they are one of the form teams in the Premier League. Their home record is fantastic so we know how difficult it's going to be for us."
Cahill lifted the lid on his disappointment at the broken jaw that cost him the chance of playing in his first major international tournament in the middle of what has been a rollercoaster 2012 for the 26-year-old.
With a month of this year still remaining, Cahill is already on his third Chelsea manager, having only joined them in January, and his second England boss.
He won the Champions League and FA Cup and was part of a squad tipped to be crowned this season's Premier League champions.
But he now finds himself at a club rapidly losing ground at the top of the table and on the brink of surrendering the European Cup.
He even faces a fight just to reclaim his place for club and country but nothing has hurt him more this year than the injury he suffered on the eve of Euro 2012.
"It was the biggest blow and I haven't spoken too much about it," said Cahill, speaking at the second annual England Footballers Foundation Charity Cup.
"It really was for me because I knew it was an opportunity.
"I had a lot of confidence leading off the back of what we did last year and really looking forward to going to my first major tournament, and it wasn't to be because of that.
"So it took me a few weeks to get my head around it.
"It's hard. I think if you ask any player, when you're injured, even if you're just injured for a Saturday game and you go to watch, it's not the same.
"You're always itching in the stand and you're thinking, 'I should be out there'.
"So to miss a major tournament is like that times 10.
"So it was a difficult time and, like I said, a big blow in my career but one that I hope makes you stronger.
"Now, my main goal is the World Cup and I'm more focused than ever to try and make that."
Cahill's first challenge is to convince Rafael Benitez he merits a place in the Chelsea side after illness prevented him starting the Spaniard's first game in charge.
The interim Blues boss stuck with the same defence that kept a clean sheet against Manchester City in Wednesday's goalless draw over Fulham but suspension for David Luiz means Cahill is almost certain to start tomorrow's game at West Ham.
Like many of his England team-mates, Cahill will be desperate for regular first-team football to ensure he does not slip out of Roy Hodgson's England squad.
Cahill said of the man who succeeded Fabio Capello as Three Lions boss: "He's used quite a lot of players in the last few squads so I think that's a good thing and he's slowly putting his point across.
"I think in the next few months, everyone is aware of what is expected of him now but especially with him seeing first hand in the squad quite a few players now, I think that's been good."
England face a fight just to qualify for the World Cup in Brazil, having surrendered top spot in their qualifying group.
But Cahill was confident the young players who have been introduced to the set-up under Capello and now Hodgson would improve further in 2013.
He said: "I think from the last squad that you've seen, there was a lot of young players in that squad, so we've another year or so experience with that for all of us and it stands us in good stead.
"Going into any tournament, you've got a realistic chance of winning it. We just hope that we can actually do it."
The Light Blues were keen to make an impact in the cup competitions this term, after being voted into the Third Division in the summer.
They crashed out of the Ramsdens Cup at the hands of Queen of the South, before being beaten by Inverness in the Scottish League Cup, having impressed against Motherwell in the previous round.
The Scottish Cup is their last hope of mounting a real challenge and, with Rangers expected to clinch the Third Division title this season, Little would love to see them claim a double.
He said: "Our intention was to try to win all the cups and everyone was especially disappointed to lose in the League Cup.
"It was a great chance to get into the semi-final at Hampden but we just didn't turn up that night and it was really disappointing.
"We definitely see the Scottish Cup as another chance for us.
"I don't see why we can't go all the way.
"We are now starting to find the form that we should have been showing from the very start of the season.
"We've also got a number of key players back fit again and that gives us a really good chance."
Rangers could be boosted by the return of David Templeton and Francisco Sandaza from injury ahead of Sunday's fourth round tie at Ibrox.
Little hopes he has finally resolved the foot problem that has troubled him for a number of weeks.
The Northern Ireland international said: "I feel an awful lot better.
"It was difficult for me because I kept getting set-backs.
"It would get better and then I would get a bang on it and it would flare up again.
"I've seen three specialists and I've had three or four scans and we've pretty much got to the bottom of it now, which is good.
"It's definitely feeling better so hopefully I can continue to play and just manage it throughout the week."