sport

Hughes wants best ever finish

Mark Hughes believes Stoke have a realistic chance of setting new club bests in the Premier League this season.

The Potters have climbed nine points clear of the relegation zone after an excellent run of form, suffering only one defeat in their last seven league matches.

Stoke go into Sunday's clash at Aston Villa level on 34 points with Paul Lambert's side, and victory at Villa Park will take them into the top half of the table and almost guarantee safety.

Hughes is confident that Stoke can better their 11th place finish in the 2009/10 season as well as their biggest overall points haul of 47 achieved in the same campaign.

"There are a number of things we can achieve if we have a good finish to the season," Hughes said.

"There is the highest position Stoke have ever finished in the Premier League, and that is still within our grasp.

"There is the biggest points total as well, and we could still do that.

"So there are a number of things we can look ahead to and think 'yes, that is attainable and realistic' - so why not have a real push between now and the end of the season and see how many things we can achieve in this campaign?

"I think it is there for us if we recognise that and push on now.

"I sense the players themselves recognise where we are in our season and it is up to us now to kick on and finish strongly, because if we do then we will achieve a lot.

"There are a lot of things we can hit for the first time as Stoke City in the Premier League, and we will use that to motivate us."

Hughes was delighted by the manner of last weekend's 3-1 win over West Ham as he attempts to get his side to play a more flowing brand of football.

"In terms of what we are producing at the moment, we are delighted," Hughes said. "What is particularly pleasing from everybody's point of view is that we are both performing well and getting rewards for that.

"I think there have been periods during the season where we have performed okay but haven't got the points on the board, but at the moment we are able to go into games in confidence, play well and get points.

"All in all, we are in decent shape. I always said I felt the team would be stronger in the second half of the season, and that seems to be bearing up."