Stoke V Southampton at bet365 Stadium : Match Preview

By
13 December 2016
Stoke V Southampton - view commentary, squad, and statistics of the game live.


Mark Hughes hopes to take Stoke back into Europe

Stoke boss Mark Hughes wants to guide the Potters back into Europe as he prepares for his 400th Premier League match as a manager.

The Potters host Southampton on Wednesday with Hughes also just seven games short of 500 matches as a club chief.

He started with Blackburn in 2004 and qualified for Europe in his second season in charge and is eager to repeat the trick at the Britannia Stadium within his next 100 matches.

"Yes, for clubs at our level that is the immediate aim," said Hughes, who was also Wales manager between 1999 and 2004.

"There are a number of clubs, not least the one we're going up against on Wednesday, who have been able to show that with good management and good structure you can get up to the top end of the Premier League and get into Europe.

"We've all got ambitions and I'm at a club now where we feel we haven't achieved what we're capable of yet.

"The hope is that maybe in 100 games - it might take a little bit longer or it might take a little bit less - we will be able to push this club to levels that they haven't been to for quite some time."

Hughes moved to Manchester City in 2008, just before Sheikh Mansour Bin Zayed Al Nahyan bought the club. A season at Fulham and an ill-fated spell with QPR in 2012 followed.

He has been with Stoke since May 2013, managing 151 games in all competitions, but believes British managers in the top flight are a dying breed.

"I just think it's very difficult for them to be given opportunities," he said.

Southampton manager Claude Puel is determined speculation over the future of key men like centre-back Virgil van Dijk will not unsettle the squad as they prepare for a crucial period of the campaign.

The Saints responded to the disappointment of an early Europa League exit and the loss of striker Charlie Austin to a shoulder injury by beating Middlesbrough 1-0 at St Mary's Stadium on Sunday.

Reports suggested Van Dijk, now with the same representatives as Everton manager Ronald Koeman, could be a target when the transfer window opens in January.

Puel, though, dismissed any suggestion players were likely to be on the market as he remained focused on the job in hand of getting a result at Stoke on Wednesday night.

"It's not true. After the other thing is just speculation," Puel said when asked about a reported B#25million buyout clause in Van Dijk's contract.

"If he (Van Dijk) wants to change agent, it is not a problem for me.

"After this no comment about speculation, just to say that Virgil is an important player for the team, for Southampton, of course.

"For me it is not a possibility to see him (move) away.

"It's important to consider this in this moment and to not speak further about this."

Saints head to Stoke in 10th place for the start of a run of games against sides around them in the table which sees a trip to south-coast rivals Bournemouth this weekend ahead of an FA Cup third-round tie at Norwich and then an EFL Cup semi-final with Liverpool.

Puel said at a press conference: "To win the last game (against Boro) to come back after a big disappointment in a European game shows the strong character of my team.

"To continue this work and to stay now in the first part of the table is very important from us and I think we will see this."


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