'Swansea City play like Barcelona — it's so difficult to stop them'
SWANSEA City have been compared to Barcelona — again — as they aim to turn on the style this spring.
Traditionally, the ten-games- from-home marker is a crucial point in the season, a milestone where teams get their bearings and work out what is required from the critical period in a campaign.
Yet here Swansea are with 28 league matches gone knowing that whatever happens in the next couple of months, 2012-13 will go down as one of their classic seasons.
With 40 points on the board already, Swansea know for sure that they will be a top-flight club once more next term.
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And with the Capital One Cup now in residence at the Liberty Stadium, European football is on the way to SA1 next season.
These are happy times for a team whose reputation is stronger now than it has ever been.
"They play like Barca," says Cheick Tiote, part of the Newcastle United side beaten in Landore last weekend.
"Everyone knows about Swansea. They pass the ball well and it's difficult to play against them.
"If you don't have the ball, they're difficult to play against. You're chasing the ball all the time and it's not easy to do that."
To their credit, Newcastle found a way to disrupt Swansea's possession game in the second half last Saturday, turning the tide of a game which the home side had dominated before the break.
Alan Pardew's men deserved a point from an even contest, but they left with nothing when Luke Moore popped up with the only goal late on.
Moore's first Premier League goal in a year was significant for Swansea, who can now relax a little as they contemplate Saturday's trip to West Bromwich Albion.
With so much already achieved, the biggest challenge now facing Laudrup's players could be making sure their attitude is right for the fixtures ahead.
Swansea are going to be taking on teams with plenty to play for, with the top flight's top five all ahead plus two or three sides who are in the relegation mix.
West Brom are not going down and they are not going to end up in the Champions League places, but they could sneak European qualification with a strong climax to the campaign.
What is there left for Swansea to compete for? There is a distinct possibility that they could better last season's 11th-place finish.
That would mean kudos for them and credit for the club.
It would also mean extra prize money heading to Swansea's bank account and, as a result of course, bigger bonuses for the players.
Swansea may not be facing a nerve-wracking end to the season, but there are still things which should drive them on.
And that is good news for the manager, for a team with nothing to fight for tend to lose battles.
"There always has to be some tension," Laudrup says.
"The moment you don't have that, you don't compete well. And if you don't compete well, you can easily lose 5-0 to everybody you play."
Laudrup points out that "every game has its own story", that nearly every side Swansea will face between now and the middle of May will have something to play for.
Therefore, he argues, his players must be driven to perform.
Laudrup wants 50 points, and Swansea must maintain the standards of the season if they are to reach the half-century.
When it was suggested to the Dane that ten points from ten games was not a lofty enough target, Laudrup responded with a smile.
"We have to be realistic," he stresses.
Swansea could realistically end up with more than 50 points, but they would be delighted just to reach that tally.
This was a season, after all, which began with some concern about how the club would cope following the departure of Brendan Rodgers.
Now Swansea are wondering just how much more they can achieve.
"I don't really know," admits Ashley Williams.
"We've had a good season so far and we want to make sure that is still the case when it ends.
"We have a hard run of games coming up that are going to test us and if we can get through that, get some more points, get some more wins, who knows?
"We haven't set a target about where we want to finish but we want to push on."
Swansea are a very healthy eighth in the table as it stands, which is a remarkable achievement given that the club's followers would have settled for 17th place had it been on offer back in August.
If they can stay in the top half of the table, Laudrup could walk away from Wales in the summer with his head held high and reflect on a job spectacularly well done.
Swansea, of course, hope things won't turn out that way. They have fingers crossed that Laudrup's men will finish this campaign with some sort of flourish — and that he will stick around to do it all again in 2013-14.
On the outside, it seems things could hardly get any better for Swansea.
But this is a club who are determined to push on.