STOKE CITY boss Mark Hughes has challenged his players to reach for the stars over the course of the next two months and secure a landmark top-ten Premier League finish.
Since winning promotion back to the top-flight in 2008 the Potters have established themselves within the country’s elite, although a finishing berth in the top half of the league table has so far been evasive.
Victory against Aston Villa in front of the live television cameras tomorrow however, would catapult the side above the Villains and into the top half of the table with just seven league fixtures remaining.
“There are a number of objectives we can achieve if we have a good end to the season and finishing in the top half is obviously the biggest,” the 50-year-old said at the pre-match press conference.
“We are aiming for our highest points total as well and somebody recently said that the Club haven’t finished as the best placed Midlands side in its history either.
“There are a lot of things for us to aim at over the course of the next eight or nine weeks, and we will use them to motivate ourselves between now and the end of the season.”
He added: “If we can perform to the levels that we have done recently, and keep improving as we have done this season then there is no reason why we can’t enjoy a real exciting end to the campaign.”
The Potters travel to Villa Park vying to build upon a hugely successful month of March that has yielded seven points from three games against Arsenal, Norwich City and West Ham United.
“It’s been a good period for us, and we have performed well and taken our rewards from the games which has been incredibly pleasing,” the Welshman smiled.
“That is encouraging because at times in the season we have played well and not taken our just rewards.
“I have always felt that we would be stronger in the second half of the season and that is proving to be the case.
“We are excited about the final eight games of the season, starting against Villa on Sunday. It will be a very difficult game, but we know that we can go there and come away with a positive result.
“They have been a little inconsistent at home this year, but they have had two good results in recent weeks. That said, we are more than capable of going there and imposing ourselves on them, which is exactly what we will be looking to do.”