. . . Swans boss looks ahead to Wednesday's semi-final second leg against Chelsea
Michael Laudrup insists his side are far from favourites to reach Wembley as the Swans bid to reach a major cup final for the first time in the club’s history.
The Swans host Chelsea on Wednesday in the second leg of the Capital One Cup semi-final, with a two-goal advantage from the first game a fortnight ago.
If they can get past the Blues, a date at Wembley awaits them on February 24 and it will be the first time that Swansea have reached a major cup final in their 100-year history.
The last time they reached this stage was back in 1964 when Preston edged past them in an FA Cup semi-final.
However, despite holding a 2-0 lead from their victory at Stamford Bridge, Laudrup admits his side are far from the favourites to progress.
“I don’t think we are (favourites),” he said. “We are fully aware of what Chelsea can do, and we knew when the draw was made that it was going to be more than difficult.
“We are not a club that plays in these sorts of games very often, so we’ll be doing our very best to get to the final and it would be a fantastic achievement.
“Of course, we have a better chance now than we did before the first game, and all I wanted was to have a realistic chance of reaching the final going into the second leg - and that is certainly the case.”
Despite Chelsea’s home form coming under intense scrutiny following just one win in four games at Stamford Bridge, it is the Blues’ success on their travels that is a particular concern for the Swans.
Rafa Benitez’s side have clocked up impressive wins against Stoke and Everton recently, as well as hitting five past Southampton in the FA Cup.
They have gone six games unbeaten away from home in all competitions, and the Swans boss accepts that they carry a significant threat going into Wednesday’s clash at the Liberty Stadium.
“We’ve played a lot of games recently, but so have they,” said Laudrup. “It’s true that they also played on Sunday against Arsenal.
“But they have also been very strong away from home recently – possibly the best away side in the Premier League.
“They have won at Everton, Stoke and Southampton, scoring a lot of goals as well.
“We know we can’t defend for 90 minutes, but we are also aware that there will be times where we need to. But we’ll be looking to get hold of the ball and try to attack.”
In the first leg at Stamford Bridge, Benitez favoured Fernando Torres over new signing Demba Ba.
However, the record signing was withdrawn late on and the introduction the Senegalese forward caused the Swansea defence a few problems – including seeing a late goal ruled out for offside.
But it isn’t just the front men that are of concern to Laudrup and co – with Juan Mata being in imperious form this season, scoring 14 goals from midfield.
“He (Benitez) has to choose between two great forwards,” he said. “Whoever he decides to play, they will be a threat.
“But I’m also more concerned about the players behind them because they are the ones who create the chances and supply the front men.
“They have Mata, Hazard, Oscar and Frank Lampard, so they have lots of offensive potential.”
A lot of Swansea fans will be casting their minds back to 2011 and that memorable play-off semi-final against Nottingham Forest at the Liberty.
Under the lights and with a rippling atmosphere, the Swans booked their place at Wembley before going on to reach the Premier League.
And Laudrup expects that his players will need little motivation, having already secured some impressive results against top teams this season.
“I’m looking forward to it,” he said. “But I’ve only been here seven months so I don’t think I’m the best person to ask about whether this is the biggest game in the club’s history.
“We certainly have a great chance of reaching a final, and for those who have been at the club for a number of years, that would be absolutely fantastic.
“But the players are really looking forward to it and I don’t think they will need much motivating because they are well aware that they are just one step away.”
Meanwhile, Laudrup revealed that he expects Chico Flores to be fit after the defender missed last Saturday’s win over Stoke with an ankle injury he picked up against Arsenal in the FA Cup.