Laudrup has chance to put rotation in motion

Posted by Max Hicks

David Price/Arsenal FC/Getty ImagesKi Sung-Yueng, left, and Jonathan De Guzman, right, will get a chance to prove themselves Thursday in the return leg against Malmo.

The first leg of Swansea's Europa League qualifier last Thursday couldn't have gone much better, as Michael Laudrup's new and improved side coasted to a 4-0 home victory over Malmo. The second leg takes place in Sweden Thursday. With an injured Pablo Hernandez, an ill Jonjo Shelvey and a generous margin for error, Laudrup will look to rotate his squad.

Shelvey impressed in the first leg, dominating the midfield and looking every bit a bargain signing after his five-million-pound move from Liverpool. His absence will open the door for one of Swansea's other midfielders, and Laudrup will have plenty of choices. Jonathan De Guzman came on in relief of Michu during the first leg, and seems a likely candidate to start, while Ki Sung-Yueng is the player whose starting status is most under threat from Shelvey, and so has the most to prove.

Thursday night would also be the perfect time to test newcomer Jose Canas in the Leon Britton role. Last season, Laudrup could not find an adequate substitute for Britton in the Swans' deepest holding midfield position. Canas was brought in specifically to address that shortcoming in the squad. With a four-goal advantage, the Spaniard will be able to find his feet without much pressure, should he start.

There might also be a start for Chico, who missed the first leg through injury and would appreciate a competitive game to find some form and fitness before the Premier League season starts Aug. 17 at home against Manchester United. With all due respect to Malmo, Laudrup could probably start eight or 10 different players and still get a result, and comments made by the Dane promise some rotation.

Laudrup stated that he liked what he saw in preseason, when every player in the squad was given playing time, and added that he would now like to 'keep everyone involved'. Squad rotation will be a crucial factor in whatever success the Swans enjoy this season; a small 22-man squad and four different competitions means Laudrup needs to play the right personnel in the right games to get the most out of his men.

With a 4-0 buffer, the match against Malmo is the perfect time to shuffle the deck generously and set the tone for the season.

Last season, Laudrup's unwillingness to rotate was frustrating, especially during 'dead rubber' matches toward the end of the season when his preferred starters were routinely under-performing. However, the Swans' summer moves have shown Laudrup was not acting out of stubbornness but out of necessity; the manager clearly didn't rate his backup options, many of which have since either left the club or been told they are free to do so.

In place of last season's deadwood, Laudrup has introduced a solid new core of starting-calibre players, which should mean a lot more rotation than last season. The variety of potential starting lineups now available to Laudrup ought to make watching the Swans an even more intriguing prospect, and make Swansea harder for opponents to predict and neutralise. Look for the carousel to start turning Thursday in Sweden.

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