Stoke City manager Mark Hughes says his in-form team could achieve something “special” this season if they can maintain their current form.
Coming off three straight wins, Stoke’s first-ever Premier League point at Chelsea on Saturday leaves them with growing hopes of a European place.
“This performance and more performances like this will encourage us to think that,” Hughes told BBC Radio Stoke.
“We’ve been mindful that this could be a very special year for us,” he added.
“But we have to maintain our focus and keep our form. And, at the moment, we seem to be doing that.”
Eighth-placed Stoke are on 43 points with nine games left, seven points shy of fourth – and certainly well in contention for one of the three Europa League places.
Stoke have only once played in the Europa League before, in 2011-12, when Tony Pulis’s side qualified as beaten FA Cup finalists.
They got through two qualifying rounds against Hajduk Split and Thun, then qualified from a group containing Besiktas, Dynamo Kiev and Maccabi Tel Aviv, before bowing out at the last-32 stage to Valencia.
Prior to that, Stoke’s only previous experience of Europe was following the 1972 League Cup win over Chelsea, in the UEFA Cup, when they lost to Kaiserslautern.
Stoke City at Stamford Bridge
Stoke’s first Premier League point at Stamford Bridge was the first time they had avoided defeat there in nine league visits since December 1984.
The last time they had earned a league point at Chelsea was also a 1-1 draw, on 15 December 1984, when Bill Asprey took charge for the first time following the sacking of Mick Mills after 10 straight defeats.
In the intervening period, the Potters have also had three visits to Chelsea in knockout competitions, twice losing in the FA Cup, as well as winning 1-0 there thanks to a Paul Peschisolido goal in October 1995.
Stoke’s last league win at Chelsea was a 1-0 success in April 1974 when Alan Hudson scored the only goal against his former club.,