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Ambitious Stoke eye European spot

SINGAPORE — Having led them to a ninth-place finish in the English Premier League last season, Stoke City manager Mark Hughes now wants his side to push for a place in Europe.

SINGAPORE — Having led them to a ninth-place finish in the English Premier League last season, Stoke City manager Mark Hughes now wants his side to push for a place in Europe.

And the 51-year-old is already looking at beefing up his squad for the new season, with Bayern Munich’s Swiss star Xherdan Shaqiri on top of his wish list.

Speaking shortly after arriving at Changi Airport’s CIP Terminal today (July 9) for next week’s Barclays Asia Trophy, Hughes said the club need to make a few signings during this transfer window if they are to give themselves a strong chance of improving on their performance from the previous campaign.

“We are trying to progress and move in the right direction,” said Hughes, who confirmed Stoke has submitted a bid for Shaqiri.

“We are a top-10 Premier League team, and that is an attraction for every player around the world because of the appeal of the Premier League. We hope to do better next season (than ninth) and push for Europe.”

Stoke are also reported to be eyeing Glen Johnson on a free transfer after the right-back left Liverpool.

Apart from Stoke, Premiership rivals Arsenal and Everton, as well as a Singapore Selection side, will compete in the Barclays Asia Trophy event. The tourney will be held on July 15 and 18 at the 55,000-seat National Stadium.

Stoke kick off their 2015-16 Premier League season at home against Liverpool on August 9.

Hughes also confirmed reports that his French midfielder Steven N’Zonzi is set to join Spanish club Sevilla after being given permission to speak to them, while Bosnia and Herzegovina goalkeeper Asmir Begovic, who has been linked with a move to Chelsea, will only arrive on Sunday.

With N’Zonzi’s departure, Hughes has said he will be looking to add more players.

“We have got a number of areas we want to strengthen in the coming weeks,” he said. “We are going to speak with a number of players, but we have to be patient with this process.”

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