. . . Hernandez set to face old friends in semi-final tie
The Swans hope to take another step forward to a first major cup final at Chelsea tonight, with Pablo Hernandez looking to make up for his own heartbreak against some old friends.
Michael Laudrup’s side take on the Blues at Stamford Bridge tonight hoping to take a positive result back to the Liberty in time for the second leg on Wednesday, January 23.
For Hernandez, it is an opportunity to bury the memories of his very own cup final agony.
While at Getafe under the leadership of Laudrup, the Spanish winger tasted final agony heartache in 2008 against Valencia – the club from which he joined the Swans in a club record deal last summer.
One of the chief tormentors that day was a certain Juan Mata, Hernandez’s former room-mate at Valencia and now of Chelsea.
The pair are likely to lock horns once again in London, with Hernandez looking to get the better of his old friend this time around.
But he’s well aware of the threat Mata poses in derailing the Swans’ bid to reach a dream final.
“He is a great player and is not easy to stop,” said Hernandez. “I know him very well from my time at Valencia.
“We have to stop him, but there is also Fernando Torres – who I played alongside for Spain – and now Demba Ba.
“But I have confidence in our defence. We have been very strong at the back.”
As well as former team-mates Mata and Torres, there will be another familiar face in the opposition dug out for Hernandez.
Current Blues interim boss Rafa Benitez was in charge at Valencia during Hernandez’s time in the Youth set up at the Mestalla. And the 27-year-old had huge praise for the former Liverpool manager.
“He is a very good manager – in Valencia they love him because he won two La Liga titles there and the Uefa Cup,” said Hernandez.
“He is the King of Valencia to the fans. I think he will do a great job at Chelsea, because he has so much experience and enjoyed a lot of success in his career.”
Ninth in the Barclays Premier League and with a semi-final to look forward to, the Swans have enjoyed a fine first half to the campaign under Laudrup.
With the Swans looking settled in their second season in the top flight, Hernandez, too, is happy with his story so far in South West Wales.
“I am very happy here,” beamed Hernandez. “To play in the Premier League is one of my dreams.
“I have noticed there are big differences to the game here compared to Spain. In Spain it is more tactical while here the matches are more open, which is great for me as an attacking player.
“I have had a great time already here in Swansea. I hope the next month is going to be even better for myself and the club, because we have some very important games.
“The last month was slightly frustrating for me because I was out for a month because of injury, but I’ve played in the last three games and I am physically feeling good.
“Now I hope we can get to a final, because that would mean more history for us.”