Michael Laudrup demands a rousing end to Swansea City's season
MICHAEL Laudrup has challenged Swansea City to avoid a repeat of last year's late-season dip and admitted: "It's all in the mind for us now."
Laudrup reckons Swansea are sure of avoiding relegation with 37 points already on the board.
And the Swansea manager admits there is a danger his players will lose some focus — at least in the short term — after victory in the Capital One Cup.
But Laudrup is determined to ensure Swansea do not drift towards the summer and allow their standards to slip.
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The Dane has done his research on last season — and he does not want to see Swansea's form nosedive once more this spring.
Brendan Rodgers's side reached 39 points in mid-March after winning at Fulham last term, but then suffered four straight defeats — their worst run of the campaign.
In all Swansea won only two of their last eight games last year, and Laudrup wants Ashley Williams and Co to finish this season in style.
"Last year Swansea reached 39 points after a very good week (with wins over Manchester City and Fulham), but then suddenly they went on a bad run," he said.
"But we cannot stop competing, we have to go on. A reaction immediately after a final is a possibility — although I hope it doesn't happen — but we cannot take our eye off the ball for the rest of the season.
"We still have more than two months to go, 11 games, and everyone wants to stay as high as possible in the league. And you can always find motivation in every game. Look at the teams we're playing against — nearly every one of them has a lot to play for.
"Maybe Fulham on the last day of the season will be in mid-table, but everyone else is fighting either for the title, for European places or to avoid relegation."
Swansea are still to play the Premier League's current top five before the curtain comes down on 2012-13.
They also have to face a clutch of sides who are not yet clear of relegation danger — including Newcastle United tomorrow — plus a West Brom outfit who may yet qualify for Europe.
Yet Laudrup reckons that if his players' focus is right, they could finish the season with at least 50 points on the board.
"I think maybe players relaxed last season, which is understandable, and then suddenly you lose games because the other teams are all playing for something," he added.
"But we have to try to keep things going, and I think that's all down to our mentality. I think it will be different this year because I have seen a lot of maturity in this team already this season.
"I am not saying I expect us to win seven games out of 11, but I am saying we need to stay competitive right until the end.
"We have been competitive in every game this season apart from Liverpool and two or three halves of football, and I want that to continue."
Laudrup is thought likely to recall one of his central defenders this weekend after starting with Ki Sung-Yueng at the back at Wembley.
Garry Monk is the favourite to come in, meaning a probable reshuffle in midfield as well. If Ki pushes forward to a more familiar role, the likelihood is that one of the three wingers will drop out.
Whoever gets the vote to start, Laudrup says there will be chances for the majority of his players to impress between now and the end of the season.
"There is great motivation for the team and for individuals," he said. "Players have to look at how they can use the last 11 games for next season. You know it will not be easy next year because there will be players coming in who are at a high level."
Chico Flores is likely to be out for a number more weeks with his ankle problem, though Neil Taylor is closing in on a return to full training.