Mark Hughes has told Southampton to forget their FA Cup hopes when hosting Chelsea on Saturday.
Hughes insists this weekend’s Premier League clash will not act as any kind of warm-up for Saints’ FA Cup semi-final against the Blues at Wembley on Sunday, April 22.
The new Southampton boss has instead urged his side to start mastering their own destiny to wriggle free from the threat of relegation.
Southampton sit three points from safety in the relegation zone with just six matches left to play, leaving Hughes crystal clear that the club’s priority remains securing their top-flight future.
“The very next game is the most important because that’s clearly the situation we’re in,” said Hughes.
“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.
“We have to prepare as if Chelsea are going to be at their best, with their best players available.
“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.”
Chelsea’s only hope of rescuing a frustrating season lie with the FA Cup, with beleaguered manager Antonio Conte appearing to be heading for a summer exit from Stamford Bridge.
Former Blues forward Hughes has called on Saints not to be fooled by the situation surrounding his old club however, insisting Conte’s men will be at full-tilt on the south coast this weekend.
Whatever Chelsea’s problems, Hughes believes the west Londoners’ minimum standards render them a constant threat.
“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 now? 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.”