By 90Min
December 31, 2017

Mark Hughes has defended his team selection during Stoke City's 5-0 thrashing at Stamford Bridge against Chelsea.

The Potters' boss made six changes to the side that drew 1-1 with Huddersfield in their previous outing - which saw teenagers Tom Edwards and Josh Tymon come into the side - after Hughes admitted he prioritised Stoke's clash with Newcastle on New Year's Day over their game against the Champions.

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Speaking to Sky Sports after the game, Hughes said: "We were stretched today - a little bit too much. We didn't have the tools to have a go at Chelsea. We're playing today, we're playing Monday. We've got injuries in key areas. 

"That back four clearly hasn't played together, with two young full-backs. They found it difficult, which is understandable. It's a huge leap to what they're used to. At times they'll make mistakes and at this level you get punished. You have to factor that in and we understand that."

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"We might get criticised for the selection. Sometimes you have to be pragmatic. Sometimes you have to make decisions that some may shy away from - that's my job. It was my decision to try and protect key players."

Despite the 5-0 defeat, Hughes turned his attention to 2018 and the importance of their upcoming run of games. He added: "We have to make sure we're right for Monday - it's a big game against Newcastle. If we can get maximum points out of that, then that means it's two wins and a draw from the Christmas period - that would be a good return."

Newcastle begin their 2018 with what now looks to be a crucial game for both Mark Hughes and his Stoke side as they look to claw themselves away from the threat of the relegation zone.

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