Michael Laudrup warns Swansea City of Europa League danger
MICHAEL Laudrup admits his players may never have heard of their opponents tonight — but warned that Petrolul Ploiesti will be headline news if they humble Swansea City.
Swansea take on the Romanian cup holders in their Europa League play-off fist leg at the Liberty Stadium (7.05pm).
And Laudrup has revealed that Swansea have been doing extra homework this week in a bid to ensure they find a way past little-known opposition.
"I don't think any of my players will have heard of anyone in their team," Laudrup admitted.
"That's not disrespectful, but the less we know about the opponent, the more you have to learn.
"When we play in the Premier League, we all know each other.
"Of course you still do some things to prepare, like set-pieces, but everybody knows how Robin van Persie is playing or what Mousa Dembele and Aaron Lennon can do.
"But it's different in a game like this so the players need to learn.
"If you are a right-winger, for example, you want to know whether their left-back is right-footed and whether he is fast or slow."
Swansea's players have held extra team meetings to ensure they are ready for Petrolul, who stunned Dutch side Vitesse Arnhem in the previous round of the competition.
"That was a scalp because Vitesse were a seeded team," Laudrup added.
"I watched both games. In the second leg Vitesse had much more possession but did not create that much and suddenly, Petrolul's front four created some damage to the Vitesse defence and, even though they had a man sent off, they won it with a free-kick right at the end.
"There are a lot of teams who maybe you haven't heard of, but you have to be careful against.
"I don't want to become victim of a team that was not so well known and suddenly they are.
"Nobody knew Cluj, another Romanian side, three years ago and they have been in the group stage of the Champions League, so you have to be careful.
"Seven or eight years ago who knew of teams like Shakhtar Donetsk? Suddenly they are a huge team, and that's the way it is with teams from the east."
The prize is big for the club who emerge triumphant following the second leg in Romania next week — a place in the Europa League's group stage.
Laudrup has set that as Swansea's primary target in the competition, but nevertheless he is poised to make changes to his side this evening with a tricky Premier League game ahead at Tottenham on Sunday. He has hinted that some of Swansea's international players — including Michel Vorm, Ashley Williams, Ben Davies and Wilfried Bony — may be rested at some stage tonight to avoid any early-season fatigue.
"There will be some changes, not because of the game at the weekend but because I have to take care of the players who are also playing international football," Laudrup said.
The Dane will go head-to-head with one of his former players in the Petrolul tie.
Tonight's visitors are managed by former Romania defender Cosmin Contra, who played under Laudrup at Getafe and had a big role in the Spanish club's run to the 2008 Uefa Cup quarter-finals.
"I have managed against people who I have played with or against, but never someone who has played for me," Laudrup said, "so that tells me I must be very old!
"When we reached the last eight at Getafe and played Bayern Munich, Cosmin scored the equaliser out there and the first goal at home. He is a winner."