Stoke out to upset Arsenal’s Champions League hopes

(Reuters) – Mark Hughes believes Stoke City can upset Arsenal’s Champions League qualification hopes on Saturday, the manager saying his side is ready to fulfil their own ambitions of finishing in the top eight of the Premier League.

Ahead of the weekend’s clash at the bet365 Stadium, Stoke have collected 12 points and have been unbeaten at home in their last six league games against the North London side.

Stoke City's Geoff Cameron in action with Bournemouth's Marc Pugh  Action Images via Reuters / Andrew Couldridge Livepic
Stoke City’s Geoff Cameron in action with Bournemouth’s Marc Pugh Action Images via Reuters / Andrew Couldridge Livepic

“We certainly aren’t fazed by Arsenal, despite them coming into the game on the back of a really strong run of results,” Hughes told a news conference on Friday.

“I’ve always liked going up against them. They have pace, power and very good technical abilities, so we have to be on the top of our game.

“We like to upset teams who come here and expect to win. Our record stands up with anybody against Arsenal, so we will use that to our advantage.”

With two games to play, 13th-placed Stoke could still finish as high as eighth in the standings, which would be their highest finish in English football since 1975.

“We still feel we could finish eighth, but we know everything has to go for us,” Hughes added. “It shows how close we all are and it has been a strange season.

“We need to be more potent, we are aware of that, and we would love to address that over the final two games.

Arsene Wenger’s Arsenal are fifth in the standings and have an outside chance of finishing in the top four for the 21st consecutive season.

They trail fourth-placed Manchester City by three points and third-placed Liverpool by four, with a game in hand over the Merseyside club.