Mark Hughes wants to capitalise on the negativity engulfing West Ham when he takes Southampton to the troubled London Stadium.
West Ham’s last home game, the 3-0 defeat by Burnley, was marred by pitch invasions and protests against owners David Sullivan and David Gold as the mood at the east London club turned ugly.
The problems started as soon as Burnley scored their first goal and West Ham’s players were clearly affected.
Southampton know a win will lift them out of the relegation zone – and dump West Ham in it – so Hughes is desperate to pile on the misery for the Hammers.
“It’s a key game for both sides,” said the Saints boss.
“With the situation we find ourselves in, and West Ham as well, at this time of the season if you’ve got the opportunity to affect teams close to you in the league you can damage their prospects and enhance your own.
“That’s our intention, to go there with a positive mindset.
“West Ham have their own problems to deal with, it seems, with their home games so we have got to take the opportunity, if it presents itself, to be able to exert pressure on them and maybe affect the atmosphere in the ground and what seemed to occur against Burnley.
“That had a detrimental effect on the team and it’s within our ability to do that ourselves. We have got to try to be positive and get on the scoresheet first.
“We’ve got to affect the confidence of their group. Clearly there is some anxiety surrounding the club at the moment.
“That’s a negative and it certainly affected them in the last game, going by what some of their players talked about afterwards.”
Much of the anger of West Ham’s fans stems from the move away from Upton Park to the former Olympic Stadium, and Hughes can see why.
“There is clearly a difference,” the Welshman added.
“Upton Park was one of my favourite grounds, despite various trials and tribulations, because it was a real football stadium with the crowd right on top of you.
“It’s a different experience now. It’s not a football stadium as such and they have had to make compromises.
“From a personal point of view, as a manager, there is a huge distance from the bench to the pitch – you keep looking back to see where your subs are. At times the distances do seem a little bit extreme.”
The return of Southampton striker Charlie Austin could spell even more bad news for the Hammers.
Austin is set to make his first appearance since before Christmas having finally recovered from a hamstring injury.
“We are hopeful. Charlie is very keen to be involved,” added Hughes.
“He has done exceptionally well to get back as quickly as he has done. Clearly he’s a goalscorer and one of our problems this year has been an ability to score on a consistent basis.”
West Ham co-owner Sullivan once claimed signing Austin would be too much of a risk due to a knee problem.
Austin called that comment an “outrageous slur”, and has since made Sullivan eat his words with goals in his last two appearances against the Hammers, including the winner in the reverse fixture in August.