Hughes hopeful Berahino can boost Stoke's top-seven ambitions
(Reuters) - Stoke City can aim for a top-seven Premier League finish in the future if Saido Berahino turns himself into a 20-goal-a-season striker, manager Mark Hughes has said.
Hughes believes Berahino, a former under-20 England international who was signed by Stoke City in January, can follow the example of the league's top scorer, Romelu Lukaku. Lukaku has led Everton to seventh place with his 24 goals this season.
"If you look at the top seven this year, they have got themselves together after last year, when it was maybe a year of taking their eye off the ball," Hughes told British media.
"You look at Everton. They are a good side, but with Lukaku they are a top-seven side. Without Lukaku, I'd imagine they'd be back in the pack with the rest of us.
"We feel next year we have high hopes for Saido to be that striker, who gets that 15, 20 goals, which makes a huge difference.
Having signed Berahino, Joe Allen, Xherdan Shaqiri, Joselu and Bojan Krikic to boost Stoke's attacking options over the last three season, Hughes has turned his focus to building a new defensive line in the upcoming transfer window.
"Since I have come to the club, we have concentrated more on the top end of the pitch and in midfield," he said.
"This year, it is more likely to be at the back. We have to do it stage by stage. The intention this year is more defensive."
Stoke, currently 13th in the league, are chasing a fourth consecutive top-half league finish under Hughes. They will host sixth-placed Arsenal in their penultimate game of the season on Saturday.
(Reporting by Hardik Vyas in Bengaluru, editing by Larry King)