Tuesday 20 February 2018

Blues have everything to lose, claims Swansea boss Laudrup

Phil Cadden

Swansea manager Michael Laudrup has turned up the pressure on Chelsea after winding up Rafa Benitez's big-money side by claiming they need a trophy more than the Welsh club.

Laudrup's team hold a 2-0 advantage ahead of tonight's League Cup semi-final second leg at the Liberty Stadium.

Benitez is under pressure to deliver silverware to have any hope of keeping his job beyond this season, and Laudrup stepped up the mind games by insisting the Blues will be desperate to reach Wembley, given the money spent by Roman Abramovich.

Laudrup, who insists that Chelsea remain favourites to win a final spot despite his side's healthy lead, said: "With the money they have spent, and you ask me if they need a trophy more than Swansea? It's quite obvious that they do.

"One of their players, and I don't even talk about the most expensive one, cost more than our squad. I imagine that when they pay £30m, £40m or £50m for a player it's not just because he's a nice guy. They want trophies – every year.

"Just like if you are in Barcelona, (Real) Madrid, Man United, Man City, Bayern Munich or Juventus. They don't ask for that at Swansea. If we can get to the final then it will be great.

"Are we the favourites? Let's see. They won the Champions League last season so I don't think so."

Swansea's expected starting line-up this evening cost less than £20m – Chelsea paid out £32m for playmaker Eden Hazard alone.

But Angel Rangel, a £15,000 signing from lowly Spanish side Terrassa back in 2007, insisted his team-mates can succeed against the odds in what the right-back has described as the "biggest game of his Swansea career".

Rangel said: "It's 11 versus 11, but when you look at the overall picture, money does matter because it's not the same as, with respect, playing a League Two team.

"We are playing against Chelsea. But we have played against teams with millions of pounds in so many games and beaten them so I know we can do it again.

"We know Chelsea are fighting for their lives because if they go out of this competition then their manager will be in trouble and the players will be criticised. They don't want that.

"The Championship play-off final against Reading (in 2011) is a warning for us that the tie is far from over," Rangel added.

"We were 3-0 up at half-time, but they came back to 3-2 and hit the post before Monks (Garry Monk) cleared the ball when it was going in. That would have been 3-3 and we'd probably have lost. It's a good thing we have that experience. We didn't get punished and got lucky. But we don't want to do that again."

Swansea lead courtesy of first-leg strikes by Michu and Danny Graham a fortnight ago in London.

But Laudrup is praying his players do not freeze on the big occasion despite the wintery conditions.

The Dane added: "The start of the game is very important. There will be some of our players who will be extra nervous because of the size of the game but it's important we don't have too many players who take their time to settle.

"This game is different from the league games because we are so close to a final. It's a unique feeling to play in a big final and I really hope for my players that they can experience it."

Swansea have received a fitness boost with centre-back Chico Flores expected to be available after missing Saturday's 3-1 league win over Stoke with a knee injury. (© Independent News Service)

Irish Independent

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