Swans looking for spring season in Europa League
27 November 2013, 21:12
Paris - Valencia travel to Wales on Thursday with their place in the Europa League knockout phase assured and a matter of pride to play for against a Swansea side looking to lay down new landmarks in their European history.
With two matches remaining in the 12 group, round-robin format, Tottenham, Salzburg, Esbjerg, Ludogorets Razgrad, Fiorentina and Dnipro Dnipropetrovsk are also certain to be in the hat for the round of 32, as the long journey to the May 14 final in Turin continues.
Swansea are on the brink of playing in the spring phase of a European competition for the first time in club history, a far cry from their last continental appearance when they were hammered 10-1 on aggregate in the 1991-92 Cup Winners' Cup, by Monaco.
A Swansea win at the Liberty stadium will seal their status in the next round although should FC Kuban Krasnodar and Swiss club Saint Gallen draw, the Welsh club advance regardless of their result against Valencia.
Michael Laudrup brought the club their first English major trophy last season when they defeated Bradford City 5-0 to win the League Cup and the former Danish captain is working his magic again this season with the club solid in tenth place in the Premier League.
The 49-year-old, who scored 37 goals in 104 international matches, also has fond memories of his counterpart Miroslav Djukic when the Serbian memorably missed a penalty for Deportivo La Coruna in the last minute of the 1994 season against Valencia, handing Laudrup's Barcelona side one of his four Liga crowns.
Djikic served the club he now coaches as a sweeper between 1997 to 2003, but the 2002 Spanish title won during a golden spell for the club is overshadowed by Champions League final defeats in 2000 and 2001 against Real Madrid and Bayern Munich respectively.
He will hoping his side improve on their first leg performance when Swansea played the Spaniards off the park at their own Mestalla stadium to the point, the home fans applauded their opponents off the pitch after a 3-0 defeat.
Swansea winger Roland Lamah expects a tough match against a team he is familiar with following his time playing in Spain with Osasuna.
"I know Valencia very well from my time in La Liga. They are a very strong side and they will want to confirm their qualification on Thursday.
"There are a lot of similarities between Valencia and ourselves and I think it will be a great game because both teams love to pass the ball and retention is a big part too.
"I know we won 3-0 out there, but that result is in the past. That has no bearing on Thursday night, and we will have to be at our best if we want to get a good result.
"To qualify for the next stage on Thursday would be great for us, but it will be a very tough night as they are a class outfit."
"There's a good feeling in this camp - the players are all together, and I think you can see that out on the pitch in our performances."
Seven-time French champions Lyon can also advance after a stuttering start to their season under Remi Garde, and the embarassment of failing to reach the knockout phase will only compound their misery of falling in the final Champions League qualifying round at the hands of Real Sociedad.
They host Group I leaders Real Betis at the Gerland stadium, trailing by two points with Vitoria de Guimaraes a further two back and on the road at Croatia's winless outsiders Rijeka
Alexandre Lacazette has been Lyon's main source of goals in domestic action with six, but their inability to kill off matches came back to haunt them again at the weekend when they were pegged back to 1-1 at home to third from bottom Valenciennes.
English FA Cup winners Wigan will keep their adventure going if they can defeat Zulte Waregem and already qualified Rubin Kazan avoid defeat at home to Slovenia's NK Maribor in Russia.