Southampton V Stoke at St. Mary's Stadium : Match Preview

Shane Long misses Southampton's final game of season through injuryForward Shane Long will miss Southampton's final match of the season against Stoke at St Mary's with a broken metatarsal.Cedric Soares, who was substituted in the goalless draw against Manchester United on Wednesday, and Ryan Bertrand are both doubts.Striker Charlie Austin is pushing for his first start since December.Claude Puel insists Southampton's target for next season should be to secure European football."Before the game against Manchester United I spoke with Jose Mourinho, and it was very hard for them to play every three days in every competition, and playing European games is difficult," Puel said."You play on Thursday and two days after Sunday in the Premier League, which is more difficult than playing in the Champions League, for example, because you have more time to recover."It was strong and interesting for all the squad to feel the difficulty of this and it is just a shame, of course, without the possibility to continue without the qualification for next season in European games."We learned a lot and it was very interesting, and it will be I think the objective for the next season because all the players now and all the squad are ready to give a good answer in important games."Marko Arnautovic looks set to miss out for Stoke.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 for the Potters.Stoke boss Mark Hughes wants his team to do better next season against the Premier League big boys.Stoke's record against the top seven this season makes for uncomfortable reading, with just four points gained from the 14 fixtures against Chelsea, Tottenham, Manchester City, Liverpool, Arsenal, Manchester United and Everton.Hughes' side drew with City at the Etihad Stadium and Everton at the bet365 Stadium while earning a point both home and away against United.The 53-year-old said: "In previous years we've been criticised for not beating the teams around us, but I'm sure a lot of the clubs in and around us have similar records this year."You saw on Thursday night in the game with the previous champions Leicester against Tottenham that there's a huge difference this year, for whatever reason, and the top six or seven clubs are markedly ahead of everyone else."Next year everyone in the middle group will try to improve markedly like those top clubs have this year, I am convinced of that, so there won't be the disparity that there has been this year."We are part of that and we will try to affect those stats better than we have been able to this year."

Source: PAR