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Hazard shines but Blues stumble

Chelsea Ratings
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By ESPN Staff

Hughes excited by Fulham potential

Mark Hughes believes he can achieve more at Fulham than he did with Blackburn.

Cottagers boss Hughes helped Rovers reach two FA Cup semi-finals and qualify for Europe twice during his near four years in charge at Ewood Park.

But despite arguably not having the same financial resources at Fulham, Hughes reckons he inherited better group of players than those he took over at Blackburn six and a half years ago.

He said: "I feel that there's certainly the capacity to do a similar job here and, obviously, I've come in at a better level because the group of players here is better technically than the one I inherited at Blackburn.

"Why can't we achieve regular top-10 positions in the Premier League and, on certain occasions, who knows? Maybe we can push for sixth position, fifth position. In terms of achievement, given the resources this club has, it reflects greatly on everybody involved.''

After a difficult start to life at Fulham, Hughes has managed to stabilise the club in mid-table in the Barclays Premier League with nine matches remaining.

And despite being seven points behind sixth-placed Liverpool, Europe currently beckons for Fulham through the Fair Play League.

"I think it's ourselves and Chelsea in the top two positions at the moment,'' said Hughes, who took charge after the Cottagers reached last season's Europa League final. Chelsea almost certainly will qualify for Europe through other avenues, so we're in the mix for that.

"Given the club's had a fantastic taste for European football in recent times, we'd love to get it back. If, initially, it's through the position in the Fair Play League then we'll take that. But in the future, we expect to do it by virtue of our position in the Premier League.''

Doing that this season looks highly unlikely considering the number of teams Fulham will have to overhaul. They face one of them, Everton, tomorrow and victory will see them leapfrog their opponents.

However, the west Londoners have never won a league game at Goodison Park and have lost every one of their Premier League matches there.

"Our record at Everton's not very good at all,'' Hughes said. "I don't think we've actually won in the Premier League and I think I'm right in saying we've not even got a point from our travels to Goodison Park. If we can change that then that shows that we've been making some kind of progress.''

Fulham have not played for a fortnight but Hughes is sure rustiness will not be a problem on Saturday.

"I think at this time of year, you've just got to make sure your quality of work is correct and you're just bringing it to the boil,'' he said.

Reports emerged this week that Hughes was Bayern Munich's number one target to succeed Louis van Gaal as manager. The 47-year-old's contract expires at the end of next season and, despite admitting he would one day like to manage overseas, he was open to extending his stay at Craven Cottage.

"I like those types of conversations, to be perfectly honest,'' he said. "If the club feel I'm doing a good job and that's what they want to do then certainly I'm open to those discussions. We just need to get this season out the way and maybe we can sit down and speak about those things.''

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