Monday 24 October 2016

Stoke boss Mark Hughes targeting top-10 finish in Premier League

Published 14/05/2016 | 13:16

Mark Hughes' Stoke can still finish ninth this season
Mark Hughes' Stoke can still finish ninth this season

Stoke boss Mark Hughes has emphasised Sunday's home clash with West Ham is important for his side as well as for the London club.

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The Hammers head to the Britannia Stadium on what is the final day of the Barclays Premier League season lying sixth in the table and looking to secure European football for next term.

Tenth-placed Stoke's own push for Europe has ended, as have their hopes of matching or beating their record Premier League points haul from last term of 54, the Potters having collected just two from the last 18 available to leave them on 48.

The Staffordshire outfit can, though, still equal their Premier League best in coming ninth - the position they have finished in for the last two years under Hughes - with them a point behind current occupants Chelsea.

Additionally, the Welshman is wary of his men slipping out of the top half, with Swansea two points adrift of them in 11th.

"Sometimes you get dead rubbers at this stage of the season," Hughes said.

"But West Ham obviously have the opportunity to get that European spot while from our point of view it is still very significant in terms of what we want to do this year. It's good for both teams that there's an edge to the game.

"We still have an opportunity, if we do our job and results go our way, to get ninth again, so we are still trying to achieve things.

"We want to finish in the top 10 at least. It is where we have been for a lot of the season and it would be really disappointing to miss out on the last weekend.

"We wouldn't deserve that - but having said that we need to get our job done. The last few weeks have been difficult in terms of getting results and this is not an easy fixture.

"It is not a game, you sense, where things are going to just peter out. It is a game that matters."

Hughes summed up Stoke's 2015-16 as frustrating prior to them suffering a fourth loss in five matches with last Saturday's 2-1 reverse at Crystal Palace.

But he insists the club are still heading in the right direction at the end of a season that has seen them hit by some significant injuries, reach the Capital One Cup semi-finals and register league victories over the likes of Chelsea, Manchester City and Manchester United.

"There are things we can look back on with a certain amount of pride but there other things we have been disappointed with," Hughes said.

"The number of injuries has hurt us, certainly at the back end of the season. So that is something hopefully we'll have a better run at next season.

"Overall we've had some highs - really good performances and results - and a few lows along the way. We are honest enough to admit that.

"But we still feel we're progressing as a club."

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