Swansea City's Michel Vorm all prepared to tackle the Stoke bombardment
MICHEL Vorm revealed he has trained with tackle bags in a bid to cope with the Premier League's more muscular opponents.
And the Dutch goalkeeper will face no bigger physical test than at Stoke today.
To say Swansea City's trip to the Britannia Stadium is a contest of strength against style maybe oversimplifying things.
But there is little doubt what kind of attack Michael Laudrup's side will come under this afternoon.
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Expect high, looping grenades lobbed into the Swansea penalty area, and Vorm is ready for that challenge.
"I don't mind that side of the game," he said.
"There were some games last season when I had some bruises on my face afterwards.
"Things happen and I don't mind. I like to go in there and show what you can do. I am not afraid of anybody.
"We have practised with tackle bags.
"It is good preparation for matches like this. It is not only for the games against Stoke because other teams have some physical players, especially from set pieces.
"You have to make sure you are strong and make sure you come and fight those guys.
Vorm does not hide when things get a little rough.
The former Utrecht man was knocked to the ground under the challenge of bustling centre-forward Carlton Cole when West Ham visited the Liberty a month ago.
But he quickly dusted himself down and got on with the game.
Vorm admits he has watched the odd game of rugby since moving to Wales in the summer of 2011.
And he reckons that is on another level when it comes to physicality.
"I have seen a bit on the television, in the Six Nations," said Vorm.
"I come from Holland and over there rugby is not a big sport.
"It is way bigger over here. When I see it, I realise it is so rough. The guys are so big. It can be fun to watch but it is so different to football."
Stoke's robust style is also a distinct alternative to the slick passing approach for which Swansea have become famous.
Swansea lost 2-0 in the Potteries last season, having won by the same scoreline when Tony Pulis's side visited SA1 in October 2011.
That game at the Liberty was something of a watershed moment as Brendan Rodgers's side proved that passing could trump power.
"We beat them last season and it was very important that we beat them," remembers Vorm.
"It is so hard to play against Stoke because they are so good at what they do.
"The most important thing for us is that we work like crazy and when we get the ball we need to keep it as long as possible.
"That is what we didn't do last Saturday against Everton.
"We will have to do that much better than we did because we have lost 3-0 at home and don't want to lose again.
"I think this is the hardest away game of the season. If you speak to other players from other clubs, they will tell you that as well.
"I am sure if we keep the ball like we can and work like crazy we can beat almost anybody."
After a scintillating start to the season, Swansea's league form has suffered a dip.
Defeat to a struggling Aston Villa side was followed by a 3-0 home reverse against Everton last weekend.
Despite those results, Vorm is convinced the club continues to head in the right direction.
He signed a new four-year contract this week and is looking forward to what lies ahead.
"I think the future is very bright here," he said.
"The way the club is going I am sure it is going to be even better.
"We are getting our own training ground, we have signed new players and I think we have a better squad than last year.
"Even though Brendan left, we have a manager who fits the profile we are trying to play and I think we have bounced back after last season.
"It is very tough now because we had a very good season last season and we won our first two games. But now we have lost our last two matches.
"Even so, I see a very bright future ahead and that is why I am here."
Vorm joined a team who had yet to find their feet in the top flight just over a year ago.
And many of the players who got them to the Premier League have since left the Liberty.
Play-off final goalscorers Scott Sinclair and Stephen Dobbie are now plying their trade elsewhere, while Joe Allen made a £15 million move to Liverpool.
Despite those departures, Vorm reckons Swansea's squad has been strengthened.
Laudrup has added the likes of Chico Flores, Michu, Ki Sung-Yueng and Pablo Hernandez to a squad he wants trimmed down to aid competition.
"We had a very good team last year but this season we have a group of about 20 players and I think the competition for places is greater," said Vorm.
"Not everyone has settled in yet but you can see that we can make more changes this season than we could last.
"All the players have signed for at least a couple of years at this club, so that is good.
"The club is going somewhere and it is getting bigger and bigger.
"You can hear people talking about Swansea and looking at Swansea.
"If a player leaves Valencia to come to Swansea it must be good."
After making a flying start to the campaign, Swansea have stumbled in recent weeks.
The rot was stopped when back-to-back losses were halted by a Capital One Cup win over Crawley in midweek.
Flores is set to return today after a three-match ban and Vorm is upbeat about his second Premier League season.
Swansea finished 11th last term and Holland's No. 2 is aiming to do better that this time around.
"I think we can finish higher this season than last," he added.
"Everybody knows the way Stoke play — whether they play at home or away it is the same.
"They have a lot of fanatical fans, which is quite similar to the Jacks here.
"It won't be in our favour on Saturday but it is always good to have a good atmosphere."
Swansea's task is to cope with the unique conditions a trip to Stoke provides.