Manchester United-Swansea City Preview
LONDON (SE) - Swansea City face a strong test of their top-half credentials when they welcome Manchester United to the Liberty Stadium this weekend.
The Swans have lost just two of their last eight league games to find themselves tenth (just four points off the European places) heading into the New Year.
Meanwhile, visitors Manchester United are guaranteed to be top at Christmas for the eighth time under Sir Alex Ferguson, and will be looking to add to their six-point advantage at the summit over a busy holiday period.
"The manager talks a lot about the Christmas period being one of the toughest spells of the Premier League season and that to be in a strong position at the turn of the year is vital," said central defender Phil Jones in an interview with the club's official website. "We've put ourselves in a good position but we want to make the most of it so we need to keep it going."
Swansea performed admirably in a 1-0 defeat to Tottenham at White Hart Lane last weekend, and have Premier League top-scorer Michu in their ranks, so believe they have nothing to fear from Sunday's visitors.
"We are not naive anymore, particularly against the big clubs at home," said Swansea right-back Angel Rangel. "What we have to do is be positive and brave and go for the game. If you go and give too much respect to the opponent, you are going to get beaten.
"We have nothing to lose in this game. The only pressure we have is that we play at home. We want to win every game at home, but this time we are playing against the team on top of the league. Hopefully we can go out and do something good."
The manager of the Welsh club, Michael Laudrup, was also in confident mood ahead of the visit of United, opting to talk about his choice of red wine for his opposite number.
"I wouldn't describe myself as a wine expert, but I do like my wine," joked Laudrup. "It's been a passion of mine for many years.
"I was only told of Sir Alex's passion for a glass of red recently, so I don't think I can get one of my bottles over from Denmark in time. But I know of a lovely bottle of Spanish red they serve here in La Parrilla (local Spanish restaurant), so perhaps I will pick one up from there for him."
Swansea have doubts over Pablo Hernandez (hip) and Michel Vorm (groin), while Neil Taylor (ankle) is out until the end of the season. United have doubts over Rafael, Michael Carrick, Jonny Evans, Anderson and Nani due to hamstring problems, while Shinji Kagawa is struggling with an on-going knee injury.
United did the double over Swansea last season, conceding no goals in either game. Those meetings were the first between the clubs in 30 years.
The Swans have scored six goals in their last two games at the Liberty Stadium.
United have 15 different goal scorers this season - a league high - and have picked up five more points on the road than any other team in the top flight. Dutch striker Robin van Persie has managed either a goal or an assist (or both) in 13 of his 15 starts for United, and has scored in four straight Premier League matches.