Laudrup says Swansea can do something special tonight
MICHAEL Laudrup believes Swansea City have a chance to do something special tonight in their bonus fixture against Valencia.
Swansea’s first ever Europa League group game is one of the most glamorous the club have ever played.
Either a draw or a win at the Mestalla this evening would go down as a landmark result in Swansea’s history.
Laudrup is convinced his team have the quality to get something — and insists they can play without any weight on their shoulders because this game will not dictate whether they progress to the next stage of the competition.
“I would not call it a free game, but we are playing the top team in the group on their home ground, so all the pressure is on Valencia,” said the Swansea manager.
“This is only the first of six games, and my experience in these group stages is that the important games are your home games.
“If you win your three home games, then you are through, I think that’s it.
“This is probably the most difficult of the six games we face, so we have a lot to win and not so much to lose.
“But let’s see, I am quite confident because even if Valencia are a huge team who have had a lot of success in recent years, I don’t think the gap between the two teams right now is that big.”
Champions League runners-up in 2000 and 2001, Valencia won the Uefa Cup in 2004. They have been the best side in Spain behind the big two of Real Madrid and Barcelona for many years, but are struggling right now.
Riddled with financial problems, Valencia sold star man Roberto Soldado to Spurs in the summer and have begun the new season with three defeats in four La Liga games.
Already new boss Miroslav Djukic is facing criticism from supporters who have become used to better, and the home side are desperate for a result tonight.
“The Valencia fans have been used to seeing great players and great teams at their club,” Laudrup added.
“They always want the best and they ask for that — they demand from the players and the manager that they are up there competing with Barcelona and Real Madrid.
“Let’s see how they react, because in their minds Valencia are way beyond Swansea even though we play in the Premier League.
“With all these small things and the moment they are in, let’s see if we can take advantage.
“I think we have our chances.”
Laudrup’s squad features a number of players nursing knocks and bruises following Monday’s high-intensity
draw with Liverpool at the Liberty.
But only Neil Taylor and Valencia old boy Pablo Hernandez are definitely out with injury, while Leon Britton is at home serving a one-match ban following his red card against Petrolul Ploiesti.
Wilfried Bony could play some part despite injuring his ribs against Liverpool, though Laudrup will have half an eye on next Sunday’s Premier League trip to Crystal Palace when he selects his side tonight.
The Dane is pledging to field a “competitive team” on his return to Spain, the country where he has spent the majority of his glittering career.
Whoever gets the nod will be told that the opening stages will be key if Swansea are to trouble the side who finished fifth in La Liga last season.
“Of course we have to be very, very focused from the first minute, because I can imagine after their start to the season that the Valencia players will want to come out and show that they can play football,” Laudrup said.
“They are much better than they have showed at the start of the season.
“We have to be prepared, especially the first 15 or 20 minutes, if we are going to get a result.”