Mark Hughes has defended former team-mate Mike Phelan after criticism fell his way after last Saturday’s result against Bournemouth, but insisted his side are gunning for The Tigers tomorrow.

Speaking about the situation Phelan now finds himself in, Hughes stated: “It’s difficult because there seems to be a lot of outside distractions with maybe a change of ownership in the offing.

“He has to deal with that, which isn’t easy.”

Phelan, 54, was part of Sir Alex Ferguson’s Manchester United, where Hughes built a close relationship with the Hull boss, and his appointment at Hull pleased the Stoke City manager.

“I played for a long time with Mike at Man United,

“He’s a great guy and I’m really pleased he’s got the opportunity.

“He’s a good coach and has had an impact since Steve Bruce left. He’s clearly well thought of there and I’m sure that given time he will stamp his mark on the team.”

However, Hughes also stated that Stoke travel to Hull tomorrow sensing a real opportunity after Hull were decimated last Saturday as they went down 6-1 against AFC Bournemouth.

“They will want a reaction and their supporters will demand one.”

“It is down to how well they are able to bounce back now but for us, it is an opportunity for sure, and we want to ask questions of them and see if they are fragile.

“It isn’t easy though – away games in the Premier League are difficult regardless of the circumstances of the sides.

“In terms of our own confidence we are in good shape and we are looking forward to it. It’s important for us to start brightly on Saturday.”

Phil Bardsley is the only real injury doubt, and it’s up to Hughes to decide in the next 24 hours if he wants to throw in Marc Muniesa, who came on at right-back against Sunderland last Saturday, or place Geoff Cameron there, which could mean a return to first team action for Giannelli Imbula.

Hull are expected to hand 17-year-old Josh Tymon his Premier League debut, and Hughes will see that as a real opportunity to test him against a player of Xherdan Shaqiri’s ability.



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