Mark Hughes admits Southampton’s Premier League relegation battle will be in the back of his mind during this Sunday’s FA Cup semi-final with Chelsea.
The Saints go to Wembley to take on Antonio Conte’s men hoping to reach a first FA Cup final since 2003, but they are teetering near a drop to the Championship as they sit four points from safety with four games left.
The FA Cup semi-final has traditionally been one of the most important fixtures in the football calendar but Hughes says their league predicament will be with him at Wembley.
“If I am honest it will be,” he said. “The day itself is something we can enjoy and we have to make the most of this opportunity.
“It’s not every season you get the opportunity to get to a major cup final.
“It’s the greatest cup competition in the world in my view. In some people’s minds maybe the competition has been diminished since the emergence of the Champions League and Premier League, but to be involved in major cup finals is where you make your mark in the game and it’s where you need to be.
“It’s an opportunity to get to a major final and we are going there to make sure we don’t let it pass by.”
Both the Saints and Chelsea were in action on Thursday night and they meet again just eight days after the Blues came from 2-0 down to win 3-2 in the league at St Mary’s.
Conte’s men are clear favourites for the game, but Hughes wants his side to produce something that can build some momentum in their fight against the drop.
“Chelsea’s priorities revolve around winning the FA Cup because that is where they are,” he said. “We go in as underdogs but we shouldn’t be fazed by that.
“It is an opportunity to make a statement of intent. We have been playing better in my view in the last few weeks.
“Our performance at Leicester (0-0 draw on Thursday evening) wasn’t quite at the level we have produced in recent weeks.
“We are trying to build momentum and to win an FA Cup semi-final to increase the momentum would be great going into the Bournemouth game (on April 28).
“For the most part we were the better side against Chelsea and for eight minutes we weren’t able to clear our heads and they had the quality to come though.
“We were unlucky, it has to be said. That luck that you need wasn’t there, but it was a good performance against a very good team and we can feed off that.”