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OTJ backs Swans in Euro opener

PUBLISHED

06:00 31st July 2013

. . . ex-Swan confident Laudrup's men will progress


Ex-Swan Owain Tudur Jones insists a strong start is vital for his former club in their Europa League opener with Malmo at the Libery.
The Wales international has already felt the full force of Malmo’s quality after he was on the wrong end of a 7-0 drubbing by the Swedes in the second qualifying round last week at Easter Road, with Hibernian losing 9-0 on aggregate.
It proved a night to forget for Jones and co, who suffered the club’s record defeat in continental competition.
But the North Walian, who transferred to Hibs following a strong season with Inverness, feels Michael Laudrup’s squad must start strongly if they wish to progress to the Play-Off stage of the Europa League.
With Malmo midway through their league campaign, Hibs found themselves 2-0 behind after just 13 minutes in the first leg while they trailed 3-0 after half an hour in the return game.
And, while the 28-year-old expects the Swans to progress over the two legs, he admits the Swans have to match their opponents intensity early on in both legs.
“From my experience against Malmo, it was clear they looked sharper because of the fact they were well into their season while we (Hibernian) were still early on in our preparations,” said Tudur Jones.
“Malmo took us apart and the defeats really, really hurt the players and everyone associated with the club.
“Quality-wise, I think Swansea will have enough to progress, but the leveller in this tie is the fact Malmo are midway through their campaign.
“When you look at both of the legs, Malmo put the game to bed early on because they stormed us.
“But I think with the quality of players Swansea have, and considering the types of opposition they have dominated in the Premier League, they should have too much for Malmo.
“But a good start will be vital on Thursday. To dictate the game from an early stage - keeping the ball and making the opposition chase the ball, as Swansea regularly do – will be an ideal start.
“If they do that, then I think we will see Swansea in the next stage of the tournament.”
Tudur Jones, who spent four years at the Swans following his step up to professional football from Welsh Premier League club Bangor City, started the first leg defeat in Sweden but was an unused substitute in the return leg.
And he warned his former club of the threats Malmo possess following their ruthless display in Edinburgh.
“They are a side that like to keep the ball and play neat football while they look to hurt you on the counter attack,” said Tudur Jones.
“Their full-backs like to get forward while they have a decent playmaker in midfield (Markus Halsti) who is a Finnish international. He was a dangerous player.
“They have two wide players who were very intelligent and their strikers looked sharp too.
“But obviously Malmo will be facing stronger opposition – a team that finished ninth in the best league in the world and won the Capital One Cup.
“They are also managed by Michael Laudrup and have a number of international players in their squad.
“It will be a tough test for Swansea, but I still fancy them to get through to the next round. I wish I could be at the game, but I’ll be watching it at home.”
Tudur Jones has been hugely impressed by the progression of the Swans since his departure to Norwich in 2009.
Having been a part of the League One title-winning squad - along with the victorious Football League Trophy side – he remains a keen follower of the club.
And he insists the summer signings made by Laudrup will serve the club well this season.
“What Swansea achieved last season was incredible,” he added. “The top-half finish in the Premier League and a first major trophy for the club really showed what quality Michael Laudrup has at the club.
“And now he has added to it by signing an England international in Jonjo Shelvey, and getting Jonathan de Guzman – a Dutch international – back on loan.
“Then there’s Wilfried Bony, who scored loads of goals in Holland last season. To spend £12million on him was unthinkable even a year ago at the club.
“Even last season, when they broke the transfer record to sign Pablo Hernandez for £5.55m, I couldn’t believe it. I was a part of the club during a time in which a few hundred thousand pounds was the equivalent of spending £12m.
“But Swansea are at a different now, and I’m delighted for everyone connected with the club because they deserve it.
“To play football and come up through the leagues is no easy feat, but there is a vision and philosophy at the club that everyone buys into.
“And now they are reaping the rewards.”

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