Swansea v Spurs: Laudrup's men aim to prove they can cope
"IT is whispered about all the time. All I heard during the summer was, 'Blimey, it's going to be tough for you next year' — and it has been."
So said Alan Pardew last season, when Newcastle United put together a decent run in Europe but made a right mess of the Premier League.
At Stoke City in 2011-12, Tony Pulis felt his team suffered a string of Europa League hangovers when they returned to domestic action the following weekend.
Even at Liverpool, one of the heavyweight clubs who have been in Europe more often than not over the years, there was a belief that their involvement in overseas competition last season hindered their bid to finish in the Premier League's top four.
Hence Brendan Rodgers suggested in the spring that it would be a "blessing" if Liverpool missed out on cross-border competition this year because they could then focus all their efforts on reaching next term's Champions League.
He got his wish, of course, as the Reds ended up seventh in last season's final table.
But while their former manager concentrates on domestic competition, Swansea City are fighting on four fronts this term — and on Sunday comes a first test of their ability to cope.
Swansea had tasted Europe before last night's meeting with Petrolul Ploiesti, of course, but their two-legged tie with Malmo had no direct impact on their league campaign because it was not yet up and running.
The Malmo games were used as souped-up pre-season friendlies for Michael Laudrup's squad, who had nine days between their game in Sweden and Manchester United.
Now, having taken on the Romanians, Swansea face the challenge of tackling Tottenham Hotspur around 67 hours after the final whistle sounded last night.
The good news on this occasion is that Spurs have been in Europa League action as well, against Dinamo Tbilisi — and they were away from home.
So if Swansea are a little weary on Sunday, their opponents should be too.
Having said that, however, Andre Villas-Boas's men have far more experience of European weeks than Swansea — and they have a squad which seems to be getting deeper by the day.
Tottenham appear intent on stockpiling as many high-class players as possible, which is an approach that will not have disappointed many of their supporters.
Yet even if he had a transfer kitty to match that handed to Villas-Boas, Laudrup is adamant he would not sign a lorry-load of players.
Swansea's manager has talked again and again about his desire to work with a tight squad since the day he was unveiled 14 months ago.
And his thinking has not changed despite European qualification.
Laudrup's argument is that even with four competitions to think about, he is only likely to use around 23 players.
Having any more on top of that will only make his life more complicated, he says, for no manager wants discontented players who have no chance of making a matchday 18 coming into training every day.
Swansea chairman Huw Jenkins, meanwhile, rejects the idea that a club's Premier League form will inevitably suffer if they are thinking about Europe on Thursday nights.
He says players would much rather have an extra game than another training session — and cites Swansea's rousing run through December and January last season as evidence that they can cope with a fixture pile-up.
Swansea's followers can only hope the men at the top of their club are proved right.
Nobody in these parts fancies the sort of slump Newcastle endured last term, after all.
A result at White Hart Lane — a ground where Swansea have never won in 15 previous league visits — would be quite a way for Laudrup's men to announce that they are in for a good year.
In truth a draw would be a fine result at a ground where Swansea have played okay in spells but never really looked like avoiding defeat in each of their two Premier League visits.
Gareth Bale looks like he is on his way out of Spurs, and that has to be good news for Swansea given that the Welshman was almost single-handedly responsible for Tottenham's win in SA1 last season.
"We dominated that game, but then suddenly Bale changed everything," Laudrup recalls.
Even without their wonder winger, Tottenham look like being a formidable side once more this season.
They have spent big money on some top-class players and will expect to brush aside Swansea on home soil.
If they are to stop that happening, Laudrup's team must be more precise than they were on the opening day of the new domestic season against Manchester United.
Swansea did okay against the champions, and the 4-1 scoreline was a little harsh given the balance of the contest.
But against the best sides in the land, Swansea cannot afford to be loose.
Their passing was not quite crisp enough against United and some of their defensive work might have been sharper.
As a result, Robin van Persie and Co ran riot.
And though Bale may be missing, Tottenham also have players who will punish Swansea if they are not somewhere close to their best.
"We are playing against another big Premier League team and, while United's finishing was great last week, we have to look into what happened before that," Laudrup adds.
"Against United we lost possession in areas where we didn't have to.
"We could have done a little better, and that's what we must do against Spurs."