Swansea City boss Michael Laudrup: I can't really say too many times just how important the Reading game is
MICHAEL Laudrup has billed Swansea City's clash with Reading this weekend as one of the four biggest fixtures of the season.
Swansea take on the club they last met in the Championship play-off final looking to end a gloomy run of three successive Premier League defeats.
Reading, meantime, are still searching for a first victory of the new top-flight campaign following their promotion last season.
And with the second international lay-off of 2012-13 to come after the weekend, Laudrup has conceded the pressure is on his team to pick up a victory.
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"The next game is always important, but this time that really is the case," said the Swansea manager.
"In my experience as a player and as a manager, there are moments in a season where you can't just say that this game is important, because you say that always.
"I think there are three or four games during a season which are important than normal important games, and I think the first one for us is on Saturday."
Swansea's form has dipped dramatically since they began the Laudrup era with spectacular victories over Queens Park Rangers and West Ham.
They will be desperate to make amends against the Royals, but Brian McDermott's team will not lack motivation as they seek to establish themselves among the elite.
"The reasons why this game is so important are obvious," Laudrup added.
"We have lost three league games in a row and we have the international break to come after this one.
"We are also playing against a direct rival for us, so I can't really say too many times how important the game is for us.
"It's one of the three or four you have in every season where you say 'Guys, it's this one we need to win because it will give us so much'."
Despite their recent disappointments, Swansea are nicely placed in 11th place in the early-season league table.
Should they stay somewhere around there throughout the campaign, the plaudits will be heading Laudrup's way from all angles.
But Swansea have not looked like a mid-table team in the past couple of weeks, having been steamrollered by Everton on home soil and then brushed aside by Stoke City last weekend.
Seven points from their first six games of the season is a perfectly reasonable return and, had they been gathered in a different way, the mood in the SA1 would be brighter than it is right now.
"You can see it from two points of view," Laudrup conceded.
"If you say we have seven points and you look at what some of the other teams have got then that's very good.
"I know Sunderland have a game in hand, but we can say for sure that we have at least eight teams below us.
"And if maybe the seven points had come in another way — with maybe one win, four draws and one defeat — it could be better.
"But because it's been like it has, it's a little disappointing for all of us to have lost three games in a row.
"We want to come back from that. I know we won in the cup last week, but we want to win in the league again."
There are some managers who would suggest it is too early in the campaign to pay too much attention to the league table.
The Dane last week called on all at the Liberty to keep level heads however Swansea perform, pointing out that his team are bound to experience ups and downs during the course of a season and that reading too much into results will not help the cause.
But he also argues that where Swansea stand in the division is relevant even in early October.
"I know Reading have a game in hand, but if we beat them on Saturday we will be eight points clear of them," Laudrup said.
"And if we win this game we could maybe go six or seven points clear of the relegation places.
"That gives you confidence. It does not mean you can relax, but it makes you feel a little more comfortable during the break and then we can focus again for another big game (against Wigan Athletic)."
Swansea were overrun by David Moyes's in-form Everton side in their last home fixture, and Laudrup is expecting a different kind of contest against Reading.
If anything, Swansea's management team believe last season's Championship winners will be more similar to Stoke.
"We played Everton, who are a very good team and really knew how to close us down," Laudrup continued.
"At Stoke we were not too bad, but we were not too good either.
"We were punished by the things we expected from Stoke. You know when you play Stoke they will get the ball into the box.
"We tried to defend outside the box, but when they get set-pieces you cannot do that.
"The next game is a different opponent, but Reading are another strong team.
"What we have to do, as I always say when we play at home, is take the initiative.
''We have to take the game to them."