Europa League: Struggling Spanish giants Valencia ripe for Swansea and their style
Daunting Europa League debut for the Welsh side
Thursday 19 September 2013
In the past Swansea have been called "Swanselona" because of their stylish passing style. Yet that heavy Spanish influence could prove handy to night when Michael Laudrup's side kick off their Europa League Group A campaign at Valencia's intimidating Mestalla.
The Swansea manager appeared relaxed at his pre-match press conference here tonight, and even joked that it could be the Liberty Stadium outfit rather than the La Liga giants who field more players from Spain.
Amazingly, Swansea's Spanish armada could outnumber the hosts with five players from what is currently the world's most successful football nation in their starting line-up compared to Valencia's four.
Although the former Valencia winger Pablo Hernandez is ruled out with a hamstring injury, Michu is expected to be joined by fellow countryman Angel Rangel, Chico Flores, Jose Canas and Alejandro Pozuelo as Swansea's rise to domestic prominence is tested by the two-time Champions League finalists.
However, Valencia have made their worst start to a league campaign in 14 years with three defeats in four matches – a natural consequence, perhaps, of being forced in recent seasons to sell prized assets such as Tottenham's Roberto Soldado, Juan Mata and David Silva. So Laudrup was quick to turn up the pressure on the hosts by pointing out that Miroslav Djukic's side are a shadow of the club's best.
"I'm quite confident," said the Swansea manager, "because even though Valencia are a huge team, winning leagues, getting to Champions League finals and all that in the last 10 or 11 years, I don't think the gap between the two teams right now is that big. Valencia have been the third team in Spain for many years behind the two big ones. But, at this moment, Atletico Madrid are just above them.
"They have a new manager, and again they have sold a couple of their top players.They have had a tough start to the season and on Sunday they play Seville at home, so it's a difficult moment for them.
"But that's not my problem – it's their problem. All the pressure is on Valencia. We have to try and play our best and I think we have a good chance of getting a positive result."
Swansea arrived in Spain having gained confidence with a superb second-half fightback to secure a 2-2 draw against Premier League leaders Liverpool on Monday night. So Laudrup called on his players to ensure they put the pressure on their struggling opponents from the early moments of the game in order to test the patience of the expectant home supporters.
"The fans of Valencia have been used to seeing great players and great teams passing by," he said. "They always want the best. They ask for that. They really demand it from the squad, players and manager. They have to be up there at the top and really competing with Barcelona and Real Madrid. So let's see how they react."
Laudrup spent almost a decade in La Liga as a player with Barcelona and Real Madrid before spells in charge of Getafe and Real Mallorca. He believes there is no reason to fear tomorrow night's opposition as they attempt to plot a successful course through a group that also contains Kuban Krasnodar of Russia and the Swiss side St Gallen.
"I already know we can beat anyone in this competition," he said. "We play against teams like Liverpool, Manchester City, Tottenham and Manchester United. Teams at the same level as Valencia.
"So there is no reason why we cannot beat Valencia in a one-off game."
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