Liverpool v Swansea City: Michael Laudrup is ready to grace Anfield at last
A CHILDHOOD Liverpool fan, Michael Laudrup agreed to join the Reds as a teenager only for the deal to collapse at the last minute.
Three decades later, one of the greatest European footballers who ever lived is finally poised to take part in a game at one of the Continent's iconic grounds.
Having made his name in the Danish league, Laudrup shook hands on a three-year deal at Liverpool in 1983.
But when the Merseysiders suddenly decided the agreement should be four years, Laudrup backed out.
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He signed for Juventus, and Liverpool — and indeed English football — had missed the chance to see one of the game's finest talents in action.
Laudrup's only previous visit to Anfield was as a commentator with Spanish television for a European game against Barcelona a few years back.
Tomorrow, at long last, the 48-year-old will be involved in the action when Swansea City battle Liverpool for a place in the last eight of the Capital One Cup.
"Liverpool were my team as a kid," Laudrup recalls.
"I watched them as a kid on television back home in Denmark.
"I loved the team, the atmosphere. But I never got the chance to play there, partly because Liverpool were banned from Europe for a long time after Heysel.
"They tried to sign me, but that was a long time ago now — back in the good old days.
"Now I'm looking forward to being involved there, even on the touchline.
"It's a fantastic ground with a great crowd always."
The Anfield atmosphere will be enhanced by the presence of around 3,000 travelling fans, whose attitude towards the man in the home dugout will be interesting.
Not so long ago, Brendan Rodgers was universally adored in these parts having steered Swansea into the Premier League and then kept them there.
His decision to quit for Liverpool in the summer was understandable given the stature of the club, but there are some who feel Rodgers wronged Swansea when he departed.
Even for those who immediately accepted his decision to go, an away win in this first reunion would be sweet.
But Laudrup dismisses the idea that the identity of his opposite number will influence his desire to progress.
"I don't look at it like that because I want to win every game, not just the ones where we play against ex-managers," he says.
"We beat the team of an ex-manager (Roberto Martinez) last week, but for me it's nothing special.
"I want to win all the games and this case is no different."
After mass reshuffles in the previous rounds of the League Cup against Barnsley and Crawley, Laudrup has stated that he will make changes again.
But there is a feeling that he will go with a fairly strong side this time around as Swansea go in search of what would be a special result.
A game at Liverpool, after all, is likely to be more demanding than one at Crawley, even if Rodgers is thought likely to leave some of his star names in the stands.
"The team I pick will always be competitive, that's all I can confirm," Laudrup says.
"Yes there will be changes — a couple of them will be forced — but I don't know how many yet.
"I have said a lot of times that I always like the cup competitions.
"I know there is something special when you play former players or former managers, but for me this is Swansea against Liverpool, not Swansea against Brendan Rodgers or Joe Allen.
"It's a big game against Liverpool at Anfield. We know that if we win, we can write something new in the story books of Swansea City."
The suspended Angel Rangel must be replaced at right-back, and there are options available to Laudrup in the shape of Dwight Tiendalli, Alan Tate and Jazz Richards.
Garry Monk, scorer of Swansea's late winner in the last round, could see some action in central defence, while the likes of Kemy Agustien and Mark Gower are fit and available should Laudrup wish to make changes in midfield.
Michu looks a contender for a rest along with Wayne Routledge, so Danny Graham, Luke Moore and Nathan Dyer are all in contention to feature in the visitors' frontline.
The big change comes in goal, where Gerhard Tremmel makes only the sixth start of his Swansea career in the absence of the injured Michel Vorm, while youngster David Cornell steps up to the bench.
"I have confidence in Gerhard and in David," Laudrup adds.
"There's no problem with Gerhard, and I've seen David in training and he has potential as well."
Tremmel may need to have a good night if Swansea are to get through tomorrow, although Rodgers's Liverpool squad is not exactly dripping with goalscorers.
With Liberty old boy Fabio Borini injured and Andy Carroll on loan at West Ham, Rodgers will have to turn to fringe men like Daniel Pacheco or Samed Yesil if he wants to give Luis Suarez a rest.
If the last round is anything to go by, the Ulsterman will leave out a number of big-hitters — but there will still be plenty of quality in the Liverpool side.
And so Swansea fly to Merseyside this evening knowing another big performance is required following their fine effort in defeat at Manchester City last weekend.
"We felt we deserved something at City — we created chances and stopped them from having big chances," Laudrup points out.
"If we play like we did against the other big sides, we will get something.
"This game is different because it is a cup tie — we know there has to be a winner tomorrow night.
"Hopefully it will be us, because it would be fantastic to reach the quarter-final."