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Laudrup firm believer in romance of the cup

By South Wales Evening Post  |  Posted: December 12, 2012

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MICHAEL Laudrup will be happy to spin numerous plates next month if it means getting his hands on a cup.

Swansea City's manager concedes he will be left with much on his mind should his team get past Middlesbrough in tonight's Capital One Cup quarter-final tie at the Liberty Stadium.

But Laudrup says the headache that will come with fighting on various fronts in January will be worth it if Swansea can reach a first ever major final.

Some Premier League managers sacrifice potential success in the knockout competitions in an attempt to ensure they thrive in the top flight.

Not Laudrup.

The serial winner in the Swansea dugout has made a career out of gathering silverware, and he can see the League Cup twinkling on the horizon.

"You go into the league season looking to avoid relegation or to be in mid-table or whatever," Laudrup says.

"The prize is to play one more season in the Premier League, but there is no trophy.

"To actually play for a trophy would be fantastic, and I have said that since this competition started.

"There were 32 teams left, then there were 16, now we are in the last eight.

"If we win tonight we will be in the last four. We would have to win the semi-final, of course, but just to have the possibility of making a final would be special.

"It would be difficult if we get through against Middlesbrough because we would then have to deal with three competitions in January.

"It's not easy to distinguish between the three of them — I experienced that at Getafe — but I think it is worth the risk."

In his one remarkable season with Getafe, Laudrup led the club to the 2008 Copa Del Rey final and on an unlikely run to the last eight of the Uefa Cup, where they were beaten in extra time by German giants Bayern Munich.

Knockout success came despite a poor start to the La Liga season, and Laudrup admits it is not always easy to keep your eye on the league as a coach when progress is being made in the cups.

"If you are in three competitions it can be difficult," he adds.

"You can win a game, lose a game and then draw a game and you think things are going okay. Then you realise all the wins have come in the cups.

"Then suddenly you are down the table. That's the difficulty, and that's a problem we could have in January.

"But we will think about it then, not now."

For now Swansea's thoughts are on Middlesbrough, and on sealing a place in a major cup semi-final for only the third time.

Swansea's first visit to the last four of one of the big knockout competitions was in the 1926 FA Cup. They lost 3-0 to Bolton.

They reached the same stage once more in 1964, but lost to Preston North End just as Wembley beckoned.

Aside from play-off finals, Swansea's only big showpiece occasions have come in what is currently known as the Johnstone's Paint Trophy.

Laudrup is keen to change all that.

"I know Pablo (Hernandez) has been to a final because he did it with me at Getafe, but I am not sure how many of our other players have," he says.

"It would be special for the whole club."

Sadly for Swansea, Hernandez is not around to help the cause tonight.

Also yet to come off the injured list is Michel Vorm, while Ashley Williams will be missing through suspension.

Williams's absence means at least one change to the side which started against Norwich last Saturday is inevitable, and there could be one or two more.

But the indication is that Laudrup will include the majority of his frontline stars given that Wembley is in sight.

Swansea, after all, are well placed in the league with 23 points already, so there is scope for a cup run.

Were they to win the League Cup, Laudrup would be feted forever in these parts even if he walked out of SA1 at the end of the season.

And on top of the silverware, of course, there is the prize of European football which is guaranteed to the victors — and may fall to the runners-up.

"When I was asked ahead of the first game (against Barnsley) what I thought about the cups, my answer was that I have always liked them because for a team that cannot compete for Champions League places or the title, it's a way to success," Laudrup says.

"We've seen a lot of teams reach finals in the Capital One Cup, so it's a possibility for us.

"We've taken it seriously from the beginning, and we have to do everything to try to get to the semi-final."

Laudrup is still getting to know the English game, but he describes Middlesbrough as "one of my favourites" to win promotion to the Premier League this season.

He is aware that Tony Mowbray's men will not be lacking in motivation, and points to their win at Sunderland in the previous round as evidence of the threat they bring tonight.

"But we are the Premier League team and we are at home, so we have to accept that we are favourites and carry that on our shoulders," he adds.

The challenge for Swansea is to continue where they left off against Norwich — and not fall into the trap of complacency which Laudrup felt cost them so dearly in the first half against the Canaries.

"After Norwich I went home and I could not put my finger on how I was feeling," Laudrup continues.

"But then I looked at our results and saw that before that, we had lost only once since September 29, and that was away to the champions 1-0.

"Maybe I was getting used to always winning or drawing, but sometimes you have to lose.

"And after that, I am sure we will be focused for 90 minutes against Middlesbrough."

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