MARK HUGHES has challenged his players to maintain their impressive run of form against West Ham United this weekend, and edge themselves closer to a first-ever Premier League top-ten finish.
The Potters have tasted defeat just once in their last six outings – a narrow 1-0 loss at Manchester City last month – and have recorded impressive victories over Manchester United and Arsenal at the Britannia Stadium in that time.
A second triumph of the season against the in-form Hammers on Saturday would be enough for Hughes’ side to elevate themselves above their opponents and take another step towards a landmark top half finish.
“It's an opportunity to record a league double over West Ham this weekend, and that is a good incentive for the lads,” the 50-year-old said at the pre-match press conference on Friday.
“West Ham will provide us with a real tough test though, there is no doubt about that in mind, so we know that we are going to have to be at our best if we are to get the result that we want.
“Sam has good players at his disposal and a lot of the lads he has had missing for a period of time are back in contention again now, which is why their results have dramatically picked up over the past four or five weeks.
“They will come here, be strong and organised, and they will know that with the players they have, particularly in attacking areas, they will feel that they can hurt us.
“That said, we know we are a good team, and we are confident of being able to maintain our good run of form and collect the three points which are on offer.”
He added: “Our target is to get as many points on the board between now and the end of the season to try and secure a top-half finish. If we can get the result we want on Saturday it would keep us ticking along nicely.”
Hughes admits he is pleased to return back to the Britannia Stadium this weekend, despite his side producing another solid away display against Norwich City last time out.
“It is always good to come back home and play in front of our own supporters, because as results have shown this season we have been very strong there,” he said.
“For one reason or another we haven’t been able to build upon the great away performance we produced at West Ham earlier in the season, where we deservedly took all three points.
“Our away record has been something that we have been looking to improve upon, and the fact that we have taken points from Southampton and Norwich recently, as well as being unfortunate not to take anything away from Manchester City, shows the progress we are making on that front.
“Hopefully we can build upon that in forthcoming games, but the only focus for now is on getting the result that we want on Saturday at the Britannia Stadium.
“If we are positive this weekend, and perform to the same level we did in the reverse fixture, then in my view that will be enough for us to win the game.”