Swansea City v Reading: Pleased to see you — but no favours here
GARRY Monk has revealed how he is pleased to see Reading in the Premier League after Swansea City broke the Royals' hearts in the Championship play-off final.
But 16 months on from that glorious day at Wembley, Swansea are determined to leave Reading on their knees once more when the clubs square up again at the Liberty this weekend.
The crowd will be less than a quarter of the size, and the stakes will be minimal by comparison to the two clubs' last meeting.
But Michael Laudrup has made it clear to Swansea's players in the build-up to Saturday that this game should not be viewed as just another league fixture.
Laudrup has suggested that in every season throughout his career there have been three or four key matches.
And the first in 2012-13, he argues, comes in two days' time.
"We are on a little bad run that we want to put a stop to," Monk concedes.
"And at the same time Reading will be desperate to get their first league win of the season, so I'm sure both teams will be going for three points.
"For different reasons, it's a big game for both of us."
Reading come to Wales feeling they are a little unfortunate not to have their first Premier League maximum on the board already.
They were only denied victory over Newcastle United last weekend by an equaliser which came via the hand of Demba Ba, and cross the Bridge believing they are due the rub of the green.
"They were unlucky last weekend," Monk admits.
Reading could not blame their Wembley reverse on misfortune.
Brendan Rodgers's Swansea took charge of the richest game in the world in May last year before half-time, then survived a second-half surge from their opponents to get over the line.
Monk was one of their heroes that day, the centre-back somehow managing to block Noel Hunt's goal-bound shot with the studs on his boot.
Swansea have since enjoyed their Premier League adventure while Reading, to their great credit, responded to the agony of that defeat by winning the Championship title at the next attempt.
"The last time we played Reading was obviously a huge day in the history of our club," Monk says.
"But I am glad that they have come back from that and bounced back by getting promotion.
"It's nice for them that they have made it to the Premier League, but of course we want to make it hard for them again on Saturday."
The challenge for Swansea is to maintain a fine recent record against Reading, who they have not lost to in their last six encounters.
Roberto Martinez's Swansea side were thumped 4-0 at the Madejski Stadium as they attempted to establish themselves in the Championship back in September 2008.
Since then Swansea have won four and drawn two of their games against the Berkshire club.
"We have had some good battles with Reading in the last few years," Monk adds.
"They have nearly always been close games and I'm sure it will be another tough one for us this weekend."
Even against opponents still searching for a first league maximum of the season, Swansea are well aware that their performance level must improve if they are to end their sequence of defeats.
Laudrup's rearguard were undone all too easily at Stoke last weekend and, though there is no Peter Crouch in Brian McDermott's squad, Pavel Pogrebnyak has the physical presence to do damage if Swansea do not defend properly.
Swansea must protect Michel Vorm's goal with more nous and more vigour, because Stoke did not have to work hard enough to find the target.
And once they have got their defending right, Swansea must also go forward with more pace and more purpose.
Laudrup needs Michu, Nathan Dyer and the rest to rediscover the attacking sparkle which helped them collect seven points from their first three league games this season.
Swansea looked short of ideas when they got on the ball at the Britannia, and more tempo when they are in possession would be a good start as they seek an improvement against Reading.
"Reading need the points just like we do," says Laudrup.
"We think we know what they will do. They will defend very well, they will be aggressive and they will look for set-pieces, because they have players like Pogrebnyak and the centre-backs who can do well for them there.
"We have to cope with that and, in our home game, we have to impose ourselves on them."
This encounter with Reading cannot be compared to the last, for Swansea will not be a club transformed should they win it.
Even if they lose, Swansea will have plenty of time to recover, for the season is not yet two months old.
Nevertheless, Laudrup has opted not to hold back when discussing the significance of his seventh league fixture as Swansea's manager.
"Of course this is not as important as the last time Swansea played Reading," he says.
"That was a final and this one is not, but that does not mean it is not important."