Mark Hughes says that he expects star striker Bojan Krkic to return

Mark Hughes says that he expects star striker Bojan Krkic to return to first-team action by the start of next season.

The Stoke City forward was extremely unlikely to get a cruciate ligament injury at a time when he was just starting to find his feet at the club. The former Barcelona man was widely expected to struggle when it was announced that he was going to play for Stoke City – a team known for its physical style of football. Even though Hughes has been trying to change this aspect about the club, it largely remains a work in progress.

Despite the shortcomings,Krkic managed to become of fan favourite within a few months after his arrival. The quality shown by the forward on some occasions has never been seen by Stoke fans and this led them to taking the 24-year-old to their hearts. Krkic, though, suffered a major injury after having made 16 appearances in the league campaign. He scored four goals last season.At the moment, the player was ruled out for at least eight months. This would see him miss the pre-season tour and possibly the start of the new campaign. After undergoing surgery in February, Hughes is confident thatKrkic will be back in time for the new campaign.

"He is progressing really well and we are hopeful, all being well, of having him available to us ready for the new season.We are hoping that he will be here on Sunday, giving his thanks to the fans for the support he has received from them.It's a case of what might have been maybe if we'd had him all year but other players have stepped up to fill in. We are more satisfied with what we have achieved this season in securing a second successive ninth place finish than 12 months ago," said Hughes.