Hughes demands good start

08 June 2018 11:21:23 EST

Mark Hughes is determined to make a solid opening to the 2018/19 season and ensure there is no repeat of Southampton's recent relegation battle.

Saints finished one place and three points above the bottom three in 2017/18 with a 1-0 victory at Swansea City in the penultimate game of the campaign proving crucial.

Hughes succeeded Mauricio Pellegrino in March and has since signed a three-year contract with Saints after keeping them in the Premier League.

The former Stoke City boss said: "We're really looking forward to the new season now and it's about building straight from the off, making sure that we're ready to go to hit the ground running.

"It's all the old cliches but they all apply. I think we've got a group here that's talented and has real potential as well as there being growth because they're still young in terms of years.

"I think they will all benefit from what we went through last year. I think we'll learn from that and be better again this year."

The 54-year-old is taking the players on a pre-season tour of China later this month, before heading off to France for a training camp.

Southampton are 33/1 to clinch a top-half finish in 2018/19, while Bournemouth can be backed at 4/5, Wolves at 1/16 and Huddersfield Town at 1000/1.

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