London (AFP) – Mark Hughes said he wants to capitalise on the negativity engulfing fellow Premier League strugglers West Ham when he takes Southampton to the troubled London Stadium on Saturday.
West Ham’s last home game, a 3-0 defeat by Burnley, was marred by pitch invasions and protests against owners David Sullivan and David Gold as the mood at the east London club turned ugly.
The problems started as soon as Burnley scored their first goal and West Ham’s players were clearly affected.
Southampton know a win will lift them out of the relegation zone — and dump West Ham in it — so Hughes is desperate to pile on the misery for the Hammers.
“West Ham have their own problems to deal with, it seems, with their home games so we have got to take the opportunity, if it presents itself, to be able to exert pressure on them and maybe affect the atmosphere in the ground and what seemed to occur against Burnley,” said Hughes.
“That had a detrimental effect on the team and it’s within our ability to do that ourselves. We have got to try to be positive and get on the scoresheet first.
“We’ve got to affect the confidence of their group. Clearly there is some anxiety surrounding the club at the moment.”
The return to action of Southampton striker Charlie Austin could spell even more bad news for West Ham.
Austin is set to make his first appearance since before Christmas, having finally recovered from a hamstring injury.
West Ham co-owner Sullivan once claimed signing Austin would be too much of a risk due to a knee problem.
Austin called that comment an “outrageous slur” and has scored goals in his past two appearances against the Hammers, including the winner in the reverse fixture in August.