Southampton v Stoke preview: Mark Hughes eyes season-ending win
By PA Sport
Last Updated: 21/05/17 8:09am
Stoke City boss Mark Hughes is hoping to end the campaign on a high with victory against Southampton at St Mary's on Sunday afternoon.
Stoke head to the south coast having won only one of their last 10 matches and it is a run which has contributed strongly to what will be the club's lowest league finish under the Welshman, after ending each of the last three seasons in ninth place.
Hughes, however, is targeting a morale-boosting victory this weekend, saying: "In terms of our own well-being, it would be better to go into the summer on the back of a victory.
"We have one more opportunity to get more points on the board and we will look to do that on Sunday.
"It's fair to say that we haven't hit our targets this season, so it is disappointing. It isn't disastrous though, I don't feel.
"Everybody wants to be stimulated by progressive seasons, and of the four I have been here this is the first that we have fallen short."
Meanwhile, Southampton manager Claude Puel is reportedly at odds with his playing squad ahead of the club's final match of the season.
The Saints squad are said to have grown frustrated with the Frenchman's sweeping rotation policy in his debut campaign in charge of the south coast club.
The former Monaco midfielder, however, moved to play down those suggestions on Friday.
"I keep my conversation about the team private, and to prepare for this last game," Puel added.
"Other things I don't want to comment about. I don't know what it is, and it's not interesting for me to comment.
"Just the other day, I saw good work in training and good concentration and this is the most important for me.
"I am satisfied about the strong work all season because it's a long season with many games. Sometimes it was fantastic, and they always give a good attitude and good spirit in every training session and every game, sometimes without the good reward.
Forward Shane Long will miss the game with a broken metatarsal. Meanwhile, Cedric Soares, who was substituted in the goalless draw against Manchester United on Wednesday, and Ryan Bertrand are both doubts and Charlie Austin is pushing for his first start since December.
Marko Arnautovic looks set to miss the trip to St Mary's.The midfielder had to be substituted against Arsenal last weekend following a shoulder charge from Rob Holding, which earned the Gunners defender a yellow card, and he has subsequently had a plaster cast fitted around his elbow.
Ibrahim Afellay (knee) and Stephen Ireland (broken leg) are long-term absentees as well.
These two teams have met nine times in the Premier League; with them both winning two apiece and drawing the other five.
This fixture has seen three red cards in the last five games in all competitions; including each of the last two Premier League contests.
Southampton hosted Stoke on the last day of the season in the 2012-13 campaign; when Rickie Lambert equalised after current Stoke striker Peter Crouch opened the scoring for the Potters.
Southampton have lost just once in 10 final day home games in the Premier League (W5 D4), a loss against Manchester United in 2005 which confirmed relegation for Southampton
After losing each of their first three Premier League final day contests, Stoke are unbeaten in their last five (W3 D2), including wins in each of the last three
Southampton haven't scored in a long time but they had enough chances against Man Utd with Sergio Romero very good in goal. I have to give the win to Southampton, I thought they were very unlucky on Wednesday night.
PAUL PREDICTS: 3-1 (12/1 with Sky Bet)
Southampton are odds-on with Sky Bet at 3/4 to bag the home win, with Stoke priced at 7/2 and the draw is 14/5. Manolo Gabbiadini is the favourite to score first at 7/2, for the away side Crouch and Saido Berahino are priced at 15/2. The Saints are 66/1 outsiders to fall into the bottom half this season, while for Stoke a top-half finish next season is priced at 11/4.