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Size isn't everything - just ask Leon

By South Wales Evening Post  |  Posted: January 18, 2013

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STANDING at little more than 5ft 5in, Leon Britton might have more reason than most to be perturbed by the imposing figures from Stoke descending on the Liberty tomorrow.

A Potters line-up featuring more than two players shorter than 6ft is a rarity, and their own fans have rhapsodised ironically about their apparent similarities to a rugby team.

There are factors other than muscularity which have contributed to Stoke's success, but few battlegrounds will capture the physical disparity between the two sides as strikingly as central midfield tomorrow afternoon.

Lining up against Britton will be the hulking frame of Steven Nzonzi, a 24-year-old Frenchman who is close to a foot taller than Swansea's passing metronome.

Swansea's hopes of winning tomorrow will rest heavily on how Britton and his team-mates fare in the struggle for midfield supremacy, with both sides expected to flood that area of the pitch with five men.

In the last three Premier League meetings between the teams, the home side has won 2-0 on every occasion.

When the Swans triumphed by that scoreline in 2011, they did so not by combating Stoke's strengths with an increased physicality of their own, but by allowing the Potters to win the aerial duels before snatching possession back on the floor.

Tomorrow's match may well follow a similar pattern but, as far as Britton is concerned, Stoke's approach is no better or worse than any other.

"Obviously they are a very strong team and it's always a tough game," he said.

"People talk about their physicality but they play within the rules. That's football — you can play direct or on the floor, it's up to you.

"There's no written rule to say you have to play one way. It's going to be a big test and we have to make sure we are up to it."

Although Britton insists he has no problem with the rugged method of Tony Pulis's side, Stoke have been dogged by accusations of being overly aggressive.

Compliments have been slow in reaching the Britannia Stadium since it became a Premier League ground in 2008, but Britton reckons the Potters might be the recipients of some unfair criticism.

"They do (get a bad press) a little bit. I don't know what their record is in terms of getting people sent off but I can't recall them getting more than anyone else every week," he said.

"Maybe they get a bit of bad press but they are staying in the Premier League and that's what they want.

"I thought we coped well with the physicality at Everton. They are a big team and we stood up really well so that will stand us in good stead."

Britton was rested for last Saturday's trip to Everton, where a resolute defensive showing helped Swansea repel an aerial onslaught to hold on to a creditable 0-0 draw.

But he was a part of the side which lost 2-0 to Stoke when they visited the Britannia earlier this season, and he is hoping for a vast improvement tomorrow.

"It was disappointing up there," said Britton. "We came away from that game second best, but we are not looking for revenge — just a better performance that will get us three points."

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