Laudrup eyeing second place in Europa group
MICHAEL Laudrup believes Swansea City have a great chance to advance in the Europa League despite being paired with Spanish giants Valencia in the group stage draw.
Swansea were drawn in Group A alongside Valencia, Russian outfit Kuban Krasnodar and Swiss side St Gallen.
It looks a demanding pool for a Swansea side who are getting their first taste of the competition.
But Laudrup reckons his team can finish in the top two if they get their performance level right.
"It's an interesting draw," said the Swansea manager.
"Valencia have been the third team of Spain for many years, just below Real Madrid and Barcelona. Now they are competing with Atletico Madrid, but they are a huge side.
"We have a lot of Spanish players here and a lot of people who have lived in Spain, so it will be a great experience for all of us.
"We are all looking forward to it even though Valencia will be huge favourites to top the group.
"But when you look at the other two teams, I think if we play to our best we should have a very good possibility of moving on from the group."
The group phase kicks off for Swansea on September 19, when they will face Valencia at the Mestalla.
Like Swansea, both Kuban, who beat Feyenoord in the play-off round, and St Gallen, who overcame Spartak Moscow, will be part of the group stage for the first time.
"I am pleased the top team in the group are a Spanish side because we have so many Spanish players who will look forward to that," Laudrup added.
"Then we get to try two new countries, which is good. I don't know so much about Kuban Krasnodar because they were in the second division when I was in Russia.
"It is the same with St Gallen, but they beat Spartak Moscow, so you can say they are a good side.
"I think the experience of our tie against Petrolul Ploiesti should help us. We saw almost two completely different sides against us in the two legs, and I think that is more or less what we can expect from Kuban and St Gallen as well."
Laudrup has had concerns throughout this European adventure about the travel involved, and a trip to Russia as winter approaches is not ideal. But Krasnodar is in western Russia, so the flight time is relatively short — and Laudrup is convinced his team will cope with the cold.
"It will be chilly, but Krasnodar is down towards the Black Sea so that's a little better for us," Laudrup said.
"It's not Marbella or Majorca, but it shouldn't be ten below.
"The players can play okay, but it may be worse for the guys sitting in the stand and for me on the touchline!"