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Hughes: I will not encourage Everton rumours

Stoke City manager Mark Hughes does not want to "encourage" speculation he is set to replace Roberto Martinez at Everton.

Hughes has been linked with taking over at Goodison Park if the Toffees make the decision to sack Martinez at the end of the season.

But the 52-year-old, who had a brief spell at Everton during his playing career, is unwilling to say anything that will see the rumours increase having been on the wrong end of such talk in the past.

"It is just speculation and I don't encourage that," said Hughes, whose side sit 10th in the Premier League despite a run of three consecutive defeats. 

"The talk about jobs, I have had that against me before. I didn't like it so I wouldn't want to comment and encourage that sort of speculation against someone who is in the job already.

"It's just speculation and I don't encourage it, especially when someone is in the position. It's happened to me in the past and I didn't appreciate it."

Asked if such talk was flattering, Hughes added: "On the back of three poor performances, all speculation like that is positive I suppose!"

Stoke play Sunderland at the Britannia Stadium on Saturday and will make late fitness decisions over attacking duo Marko Arnautovic (groin) and Jon Walters (knee) ahead of kick-off.

Hughes added: "It will be a difficult game against Sunderland as they are fighting for their lives. It is a high pressure game.

"We don't like how goals are coming too easy for the opposition and we really need to address that. That is the expectation."