Belfast Telegraph

Tuesday 29 July 2014

Laudrup ready for 'special' games

Michael Laudrup believes Swansea will be able to hit the ground running when their Europa League campaign gets under way

Michael Laudrup is confident his Swansea side can overcome any ring-rustiness when they begin a "special" Europa League campaign against Malmo on Thursday night.

The third qualifying round first-leg meeting at the Liberty Stadium will mark the first time Swansea have taken part in continental competition since 1991, when they were thrashed 10-1 on aggregate by star-studded Monaco in the Cup Winners' Cup.

Their appearance in Europe comes courtesy of their Capital One Cup success last season and Laudrup is eager for the Welsh club to savour the experience earned by their Wembley triumph.

"Of course it is special," said the Dane, who was no stranger to success in Europe during his playing career, helping Barcelona win the European Cup for the first time in 1992.

"Suddenly as a player and a manager you are against sides you are not used to facing. In the league you play and you go on and on, here you have two games and one team will go out.

"The only time we tried it last season was the fantastic semi-final against Chelsea in the cup.

"But even with the cups here in the UK it is usually one game, here it is two legs and even in the first game you have to think ahead. It is very different."

But Malmo look set to be a tricky proposition for the Swans, having handed a comprehensive 9-0 beating out to Hibernian in the last round.

The Swedish club, beaten European Cup finalists in 1979, also have the advantage of being 17 games into their Allsvenskan campaign which started in April and sit second in the table, while Swansea are still rounding off their Premier League preparations.

But Laudrup is confident his side have the quality and the fitness to handle the visitors, but has stressed the importance of not conceding on home soil.

He said: "They are a good side but it always difficult to compare them with us.

"The Allsvenskan is not the Premier League, but they are 17 games, plus a couple of European fixtures, into their season, whereas we are just starting.

"They have played a lot of games with the same 12-13 players, we have new ones coming in.

"If this game were played in three months time we would be favourites; now I think it is much more even."

He added: "Perhaps at the end of the game there could be some rustiness.

"But if you look at the three pre-season games, we have done well.

"Against Reading last weekend we were 3-0 up with 20 minutes to go.

"Maybe in the last 15 minutes there could be something but I think the players will be just fine.

"We want to win but we know it's important not to concede as away goals are so important in this competition."

Laudrup looks set to be without centre-half Chico Flores against the Swedish side as the Spaniard struggles with a thigh problem.

Jordi Amat is set to deputise alongside Ashley Williams and make his Swansea debut, with fellow summer recruit Wilfried Bony also in line to make his bow.

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