Is this Swansea's toughest ever week?
MICHAEL Laudrup chuckles at the suggestion that Swansea City have never faced a more demanding week of fixtures.
"I have not been here for the last 100 years," says the Swansea manager, "but I can say it is going to be a hard week."
Laudrup may not be certain, but he can rest assured — Swansea have not encountered a sequence of fixtures quite like this before.
Ten years ago this week, for instance, the club had another three-game week.
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They played Carlisle United (2-2), Cambridge United (lost 1-0) and Kidderminster Harriers, who won 4-0 at the Vetch on one of the bleakest nights in Swansea's history.
Things have not always been that bad, of course, but Swansea have spent the majority of the last century competing with the lesser lights of English football in the lower leagues.
A fixture against one of the country's big clubs was something Swansea dreamed about all year round — and then missed out on in various FA Cup draws.
Tomorrow, Swansea face the Premier League champions, Manchester City.
In eight days' time, they host the Champions League holders, Chelsea.
Oh, and in between, they go to Liverpool for a reunion with Brendan Rodgers.
At stake next Wednesday night will be a place in the last eight of the Capital One Cup, a stage Swansea have never reached before.
Yet remarkably, in this extraordinary week, the fixture at Anfield is the poor relation, the one where Laudrup is likely to shuffle his pack and give some of his back-up men a chance.
"We are looking forward to these games — I think everybody is," the Dane insists.
"It's going to be very difficult, but there is always a possibility that you can cause a surprise.
"That's what we are looking for." Laudrup is adamant Swansea can get results in each of their next three matches.
That would be a sensational achievement, for Swansea's attacking quality, their defensive steel and their mental strength will be examined over the next eight days.
"Of course it is possible (to get a result in all three games)," Laudrup declares.
"But I don't want to think about three results now, I want to think only about Manchester City.
"We have to take the games one by one. We can't think about Liverpool before we play Manchester City, and we can't talk about Chelsea before we play Liverpool."
Rarely has that manager's favourite line about taking each game as it comes seemed more appropriate.
And so the focus is on City, and the eye is immediately drawn to their exceptional home record.
Roberto Mancini's team may be struggling to replicate their domestic form in Europe, but in the Premier League, especially in their own backyard, they are formidable.
City last lost a league game on home soil way back in December 2010, so it is no surprise that Swansea are fancied by few to get anything this weekend.
On the plus side for the visitors, there may be one or two City players feeling a little weary after their miserable trip to Ajax in the Champions League on Wednesday night.
"We played a bad game," reckoned Mancini.
Still, there are plenty of fresh faces who could come in tomorrow if the Italian wants to freshen his team up.
Among those players who did not start in Amsterdam, after all, were Carlos Tevez, Mario Balotelli, David Silva and Javi Garcia.
Mancini's options are extraordinary.
"After they played Dortmund (earlier this month) they made seven changes, but it didn't seem to affect them so much because they won 3-0 against Sunderland that weekend," Laudrup points out.
"It's not just the first XI — they have one of the best squads anywhere.
"But obviously Roberto Mancini has to deal with everyone wanting to play.
"I saw the other day (Edin) Dzeko scored his goals and they called him supersub.
"He said 'No I am not a sub — I want to play'.
"There are different kinds of problems for different managers. We all know that everybody wants to play."
Here was a subtle nod to the recent talk of off-field unrest at Swansea, which Laudrup has put down to fringe players feeling disgruntled about a lack of game-time.
Happily, questions about an unhappy camp have died down in the wake of last weekend's much-needed victory over Wigan Athletic, and Laudrup hopes it will stay that way.
And the fact is that if Swansea pick up results, there are unlikely to be any stories doing the rounds about Laudrup's managerial style — particularly if one or two come in the next three matches.
Realistically, Swansea cannot expect too much from games against City, Liverpool and Chelsea, even if they did take something off all three sides last season.
The trip to City is the toughest of three very demanding assignments, and even a draw at Eastlands would be a mighty achievement.
If they are to get anything, Swansea need a big game from Michel Vorm and from Ashley Williams and Co in Laudrup's back four.
They need Leon Britton and Ki Sung-Yueng to take care of the ball, because if they have possession, City's various threats can do them no harm.
And they need the likes of Wayne Routledge and Michu to offer a threat when possible while playing their part in what must be a huge defensive effort.
"Manchester City don't lose at home very often," Britton concedes.
"And one thing we didn't do last season was beat one of the top clubs away from home.
"It's much harder when you go away and play these teams but, fingers crossed, that away win is something that might come this week."
The first opportunity comes against City, a glittering side who have not always sparkled in the early weeks of the season.
Slim it may be, but Swansea have a chance.