Forget Cardiff and focus, Michael Laudrup tells Swansea City
MICHAEL Laudrup has told his Swansea City players to forget the derby and focus instead on what could be a pivotal week in their season.
Swansea's first ever top-flight meeting with Cardiff is starting to loom on the horizon, with their trip down the M4 now just over a fortnight away.
But before the "thousands of questions" he expects in derby week, Laudrup is demanding that his players concentrate on the three home fixtures which lie ahead in the next nine days.
Swansea go in search of their first Premier League win at the Liberty in more than seven months when they face bottom club Sunderland tomorrow.
They then take on Kuban Krasnodar in what may prove to be a critical Europa League tie on Thursday before another top-flight fixture against West Ham next weekend.
And Laudrup has made it clear to his players that opportunity knocks in SA1.
"We cannot allow ourselves to talk about the derby because we have a huge week ahead first," Laudrup said.
"Of course every game is important, but I can only repeat, repeat and repeat that this week is huge for us.
"If we could get two results in the league, we would be up to 11 or 13 points and that would mean a lot. We will be in a comfortable position in the table.
"And if we can win our Europa League game, we will more than one foot in the knockout stages. We would need maybe one or two points from the last three group games, and that is a fantastic position.
"And the difference between six points and none in the Premier League would be massive for us."
While they have impressed in European competition, Swansea have failed to win any of their last eight league games on their own patch.
But Laudrup is unconcerned by the barren run, and points to the calibre of the opposition to explain the lack of success in Landore so far this term.
Defeats by Manchester United and Arsenal sandwiched a draw with Liverpool, and Swansea are looking forward to a gentler run of matches.
"When the fixtures came out, we couldn't have expected three wins from those three games," Laudrup added.
"Now we play home games against Sunderland, West Ham, Stoke, Newcastle and Hull. They are five teams who are at our level and, if we play to our best, we can beat them.
"If we don't play well we can lose to them as well, but we have the possibility to win.
"It's up to us in these games — and that's why I say this is a huge week."
Sunderland look like being boosted by the return from injury of star striker Steven Fletcher, who could start against a Swansea side who will again be without Ashley Williams.
The Black Cats have taken only one point from seven league games this season — but hope the appointment of new boss Gus Poyet will have an instant impact.
"Sunderland don't have bad players — they have some very good players," Laudrup said.
"Everybody says we should win because we are at home and they are bottom of the table, but I know for certain that they will be working hard to get out of the run they are in.
"It's the first game under a new manager and all the players will want to prove to him that they should be in his team every week."