I respect Stoke as much as Barcelona - Michael Laudrup
MICHAEL Laudrup has insisted he would never criticise a rival's style of play and declared: "I respect Stoke as much as I respect Barcelona."
Swansea City are gearing up for a clash of philosophies tomorrow as they take their passing game to the Britannia Stadium, home of a side renowned for a more direct approach.
While Swansea set out to win games by keeping possession, Tony Pulis's Stoke City team look to get the ball forward before seeing what they can create in the final third.
One of the great midfield playmakers in his younger days, Laudrup is still regarded as a legend at Barcelona.
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But the former Camp Nou star has no problem with the way they do things in the Potteries.
"Stoke's style is a little different to anything I have seen in Spain, but there's no right or wrong way to play," said the Swansea manager.
"I respect the way Stoke play just as much as I respect the way Barcelona play.
"We can all say we like this way or that way, but I will never be the one saying I don't like this style or that one. That's not me.
"There's nothing right or wrong in football. We all have our opinions, but one opinion is not right while another is wrong.
"We can sit here and discuss the way to play for weeks and we will not agree, but I am not more right than you and you are not more right than me.
"Stoke play very direct football, and especially at home they put a lot of pressure on you.
"We have to try to get away from that pressure. We cannot defend too deep and we cannot give away nine or ten set-pieces in the first ten minutes like we did last Saturday."
Laudrup looks set to take what he calls a "calculated risk" tomorrow by asking his team to defend with a high line in a bid to deny Stoke opportunities in the final third.
He accepts there are bound to be dead balls to deal with — and reckons Ashley Williams and Co can find a way to cope against Pulis's powerful side.
"Last season they beat Swansea with two set-pieces and we must try not to give too many away," he added.
"It is impossible to avoid all set-pieces — you cannot avoid corners and throw-ins, and we know that set-pieces are a very important part of football nowadays.
"When they come we have to pay attention.
"We will try to play as far as possible from our own penalty box and like always, there will only be one ball. If we play the ball around, they cannot hurt us."
Laudrup accepts that Swansea can take some inspiration from Stoke, who were written off almost unanimously after they were promoted to the top flight in 2008 but are still there now.
"It's normal in any country — everybody says that of the three teams who are promoted, at least one and maybe two will go straight back down," Laudrup said.
"Then people say the other one will go down in the second season, but it doesn't always happen.
"Then suddenly a team has been in the top league for four or five years, like Stoke, and everyone says they are established at that level. That is what we are trying to do as well."