Mark Hughes preparing Southampton for full-strength Chelsea ahead of FA Cup semi-final
By James Dale
Last Updated: 12/04/18 3:16pm
Southampton are prepared to face a full-strength Chelsea even if their focus is no longer on the Premier League, says Mark Hughes.
Relegation-threatened Southampton host Chelsea on Saturday, live on Sky Sports Premier League, a little over a week before the sides meet in their FA Cup semi-final at Wembley.
Hughes admitted his doubts over Chelsea's appetite for their remaining league games, with Antonio Conte's side 10 points behind fourth-placed Tottenham, but the Saints boss insists his only focus is on their top-flight fixture.
"Their priorities prior to the season involved Premier League and Champions League titles, clearly those have fallen by the wayside," said Hughes. "Their focus on the Premier League? I don't know.
"Recent results suggest maybe the focus has diminished but top teams have certain focus on them that demand they play to a certain level.
"If they have a poor period more often than not top teams bounce back so we're not working towards the weekend thinking that Chelsea are going to be under par.
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"We have to prepare as if Chelsea are going to be at their best, with their best players available.
"The very next game is the most important because that's clearly the situation we're in. We're not looking too far ahead because we can't. Our sole focus is about going up against a good Chelsea team who will test us."
Hughes revealed he has plotted a course for Premier League survival, having always made "pessimistic" predictions about results.
But the Saints boss voiced his surprise at the FA's decision to overturn the red card shown to Arsenal midfielder Mohamed Elneny in the closing minutes of Arsenal's 3-2 win at the Emirates Stadium last weekend.
Southampton accepted a three-match ban given to defender Jack Stephens for his dismissal just a minute earlier in that game, and he believes there has been a lack of consistency.
"Jack had a reaction and was punished for that but there were other people involved who don't seem to have been treated in the same way," said Hughes. "Elneny raised his hands to a player's face. He should have gone.
"For them to appeal that and for it to be rescinded surprised me.
"There needs to be a little bit of consistency with decision making and it just seems to be at odds with what you would expect in certain situations."