Thursday 26 April 2018

Mark Hughes certain Stoke will surge up Premier League table

Mark Hughes' Stoke are only out of the relegation zone on goal difference
Mark Hughes' Stoke are only out of the relegation zone on goal difference

Mark Hughes is confident Stoke will not be drawn into a protracted Premier League relegation battle this term.

The Potters temporarily slid into the bottom three last weekend after a home defeat to fellow strugglers Bournemouth.

Everton's heavy loss to Arsenal the following day saw them slip into the drop zone and take Stoke's place, but Hughes' side head to Watford on Saturday knowing only goal difference is keeping them out of the the bottom three.

Stoke's lowest finish since they entered the top flight nine years ago was 14th in 2011-12 and Hughes does not envisage a fight for survival this time around.

Speaking on Friday morning, he said: "I'd be more concerned if I felt we didn't have the potential in the group to have a good finish to the season - that's our intention.

"We were 13th last year, we fully anticipate that we'll be better than that this year. At the moment, we're just above the positions that no one wants to be in but we don't anticipate that's going to last very long.

"Experience is invaluable. Not only from myself and my coaching group but the players as well within the group.

"A lot of the players have experienced weeks where we've under-performed and they understand that you need to do certain things well to get out of those situations, that's what we're working on.

"From our point of view, it's not about that pressure from the outside, it's what we put on ourselves. We've got high standards here, we expect to perform well every game we play."

Hughes is the fourth longest-serving manager in the division and there is no sense the powers-that-be at the bet365 Stadium are so concerned by their predicament that they could consider a change.

The Potters boss knows the loss to the Cherries and the previous weekend's 7-2 defeat to Manchester City were disappointments, but he believes chairman Peter Coates will give him the freedom to try and turn things around.

Hughes said in a press conference, shown on Stoke City Plus: "We accept in those seven, eight days between the City and Bournemouth games, we've under-performed.

"But the chairman knows the quality of players that he has, the quality of staff that he has and in my time here he allows me to get on with my job, put things in place and get things right, and that's what will happen again."

Veteran striker Peter Crouch is a doubt to face Watford due to an ongoing back issue while defender Bruno Martins Indi remains out with a hamstring problem.

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