Hughes: ‘We are always trying to be better than season before’

Date published: Monday 3rd April 2017 12:53

Stoke boss Mark Hughes accepts his side have it all to do in their bid to secure another top-10 finish in the Premier League.

The Potters are currently ninth, a position they have finished in each of their last three seasons under Hughes, but travel to Burnley on Wednesday having won only one of their last five matches.

Back-to-back defeats to Chelsea and at Leicester have left Stoke eight points adrift of eighth-placed West Brom, while half a dozen rivals are now queuing up behind them.

“We have eight games to go and it’s clear what we need to do to at least finish in the top 10,” Hughes told a press conference on Monday morning, quoted on the club’s official Twitter page.

“We are always trying to be better than the season before. We have just come through a run which has allowed teams to close in on us.

“The displays against Middlesbrough, Manchester City and Chelsea were very good, however Leicester City not so.”

Burnley, five points above the relegation zone in a congested lower-half of the table, can climb to within a point of Stoke with victory at Turf Moor and Hughes knows what to expect from Sean Dyche’s side.

“Burnley don’t change the way they play and play to their strengths,” Hughes said. “You have to be nice and solid because they have players who can hurt you.

“Burnley’s home form has been exceptional. I don’t see them being in trouble come the end of the season.”

Defender Phil Bardsley will return to contention after missing out at Leicester through suspension, but Hughes will assess both Geoff Cameron and Peter Crouch, who was withdrawn on Saturday after taking a knock on a knee.

Cameron recently returned from a four-month lay-off due to knee ligament damage, but did not feature at the weekend, while Xherdan Shaqiri also remains sidelined.

Switzerland international Shaqiri (calf) returned to training on Monday, Hughes confirmed, but will not feature as he attempts to recover full fitness and put an injury-hit season behind him.

Goalkeeper Jack Butland (ankle) is still not ready to return to match action and Glen Johnson (shoulder) is also an absentee.

First-half goals from Jonathan Waters and Spanish defender Marc Muniesa secured the Potters a 2-0 win against Burnley at the Britannia Stadium in early December.

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