Manchester City v Swansea: Games like this are what it's all about, says Leon Britton
LEON Britton will be unable to stand shoulder to shoulder with Yaya Toure in the Etihad Stadium tunnel this Saturday evening.
Few players would.
But Britton is convinced Swansea City have grown in stature since their last visit to Manchester City.
This time, he believes, Swansea are ready to go toe to toe with the Premier League’s richest club in their own backyard.
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Britton is not making any bold predictions about what Swansea might achieve in Manchester, for Michael Laudrup’s men travel north tomorrow knowing an away victory would go down as perhaps the most remarkable result in the club’s history.
But Laudrup’s midfield conductor argues that Swansea are better prepared for a trip to the champions’ own patch than they were last time round.
Brendan Rodgers’s Swansea side went to Eastlands on the opening weekend of last season.
Their maiden Premier League game was screened live on television and, despite a gallant performance, they were eventually beaten 4-0.
It would not be a shock if they were heavily beaten once more this weekend, for the gap in resources between the clubs is vast.
Yet Britton believes Swansea will walk out at City with more confidence this season because of the experience gained in the last 14 months.
“Last year going to Manchester City was a bit like a cup final for us,” he concedes.
“I wouldn’t say we were like a rabbit in the headlights — we played well for 60 minutes to be fair.
“But it was our first game in the Premier League, it was Monday Night Football and all of a sudden you are standing in the tunnel and Yaya Toure is next to you.
“This time a lot of us have played a season in the Premier League.
“A lot of us have played 40 or 45 games at this level now and we will not be overawed.
“We know it will be tough, but we will treat it as just another game.”
Britton is one of only four Swansea players who started on the opening day last season who looks certain to make the XI this time around, although Nathan Dyer and Danny Graham could take the tally to six.
Among the names who were not around last time are Michu, Pablo Hernandez and Chico Flores — all men who have good experience of top-flight football, albeit in Spain rather than England.
“We are a bit more accustomed to games like this now,” Britton adds.
“We know what it’s like to go away and play against sides like City, Manchester United or Arsenal.
“Last season we went to City not really knowing what it was going to be like playing against all those big names we had only watched on television before that.
“But with experience you get better. Now we are used to going to these grounds and we know what it will be like.”
It is one thing knowing exactly how big the challenge you are about to face is, but it is another finding a way to meet it.
City, after all, are formidable opponents.
They have not lost home league game in almost two years and, while they were in Amsterdam last night for a Champions League fixture, they have a squad that allows for regular three-game weeks.
Take their previous Champions League engagement, for instance.
City played Borussia Dortmund earlier this month, then made no fewer than seven changes for the home game with Sunderland which followed.
The likes of Joleon Lescott, James Milner, Carlos Tevez and Mario Balotelli were restored to the side, and the Black Cats were beaten 3-0.
Former Swansea winger Scott Sinclair, meantime, did not even make the 18 for either fixture.
“They can pick two different XIs and have internationals all the way through both,” Britton says.
“That’s why they are the champions.
“When you can afford to buy players like they do, and pay out wages like they do, you are going to have a great squad of players.
“We know that whoever they pick, whether they change it around or not, they are going to have a team full of brilliant players.”
An away win will be a long shot whoever Roberto Mancini selects, but then Swansea did beat City on a glorious day at the Liberty back in March.
“That was great for us,” Britton smiles, “but they won’t be after revenge because they won the league anyway.”
The one box Swansea did not tick last season was the one marked away victory at one of the country’s top clubs.
Opportunity knocks this weekend, then again next Wednesday when Swansea go to Liverpool in the Capital One Cup.
With Chelsea in SA1 to follow a week on Saturday, Britton and company are preparing for the most demanding week ever faced by a group of Swansea players.
“It’s going to be hard, but these are the fixtures we want to stay in this league for,” Britton says.
“We want to go to these grounds and play these teams all in the same week — it’s much better than a three-game week in the Championship.
“We are going to be coming up against some great players, some of the best in the world, but that’s what it is all about.
“Whoever we are up against, we will give it a good go.”