Hughes dismisses talk of ‘little old Bournemouth’

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Southampton boss Mark Hughes says Bournemouth can no longer be regarded as top-flight minnows as Eddie Howe’s men challenge at the top of the Premier League.

The Cherries have made a fine start, winning five of their eight games to sit sixth entering this weekend, when they host Hughes’ Saints.

Asked about Howe’s impact at Bournemouth, who have been a top-flight club since being promoted as winners of the Championship in 2014-15, Hughes pointed to the Cherries’ expenditure, which this summer included the club-record purchase of £25million midfielder Jefferson Lerma.

“He’s been there a long time. He’s got longevity. That helps if you’re trying to build a club,” Hughes said.

“He’s benefited from significant investment as well. It’s not ‘little old Bournemouth’. They have spent a lot of money. And clearly you’ve got to spend that well.

“They’re playing well. They’ve got a lot of confidence. They’ve added good quality once again.

“They’ve got good pace in almost every position now. That lends itself to the way they want to play. They want to be high tempo, on the front foot.”

Hughes played down the derby tag to the fixture, saying Portsmouth are Saints’ rivals.

The Welshman is confident his side can match Bournemouth, despite Saints having won just one of their eight games so far.

Southampton also have lost their last three league games, conceding eight times without reply.

Hughes added: “Big test (against Bournemouth), but one we’re more than capable of matching, as long as we reach our levels.

“We don’t think we’re a million miles away. We’ve been frustrated, because in games where we’ve done really well we haven’t capitalised and got the points we felt we deserved.

“We need to accept that, understand that’s sport sometimes, but you’ve still got to go out and get points on the board.

“That’s our intention. We’ve just come through a period of eight games where we expected a better return.

“We’re not a million miles away. There’s enough quality in this group to start getting points on the board. We all feel that.”

Goalkeeper Alex McCarthy is available after withdrawing from England duty with tightness in his hamstrings. Hughes reported no other fitness issues.

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