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Hughes stokes flames in bid to find solution to defensive crisis

By Robert Jones

Stoke's season will improve provided they cut out their "catastrophic errors" in defence, according to boss Mark Hughes.

The Potters host Watford tonight still in the bottom half of the table after a 4-2 loss to Chelsea when they shipped a quartet of goals for the fifth time this season, and the eighth time in 2016.

Hughes has injected flair and creativity since taking charge in 2013 from Tony Pulis, but the solidity that became the hallmark of the previous regime has been lost and, at the Premier League's halfway point, only the bottom three and the Hornets themselves possessed a poorer goal difference.

It is therefore no surprise that Hughes is craving a better balance for his 14th-placed team as one of his new year's resolutions.

"In key moments in games, defensively, we have to be a lot sounder than we are at the moment," the Welshman said.

"We're giving goals up too readily. We'll address that. A lot of the elements of our play, apart from that, are very good.

"We just need to revisit our thoughts on that one and play as well as we know we can, but clearly take out the catastrophic errors."

Watford manager Walter Mazzarri is backing his team to climb out of their current slump once key players return from injury.

However, the Hornets could still be without nine players for the trip to Stoke as Mazzarri's men attempt to bounce back from their 4-1 hiding at home to Tottenham on New Year's Day.

The injury crisis has taken its toll on Watford, who have slipped to 13th in the Premier League table after winning only one of their last seven games.

"I'm not happy because we should have got more points with some of the games compared to the position we are now, and be even higher," Mazzarri said.

"But for sure we are in line with the objective of this year."

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