EPL Preview: Why Swansea City-Sunderland Is One Match You Don't Want to Miss
The arrival of winger Pablo Hernandez from Valencia was of particular interest. The Spaniard's signing has quickly assuaged worries over Scott Sinclair's departure for Manchester City, and the Jack Army will be thrilled by the 27-year-old's keen desire to reunite with Laudrup, whom he played for at Getafe during the 2007-08 season in what proved to be the pair's sole campaign in Madrid.
Hernandez is the latest La Liga player to be swept away by the prodigious excitement swirling about Laudrup's project at Swansea, joining the likes of Michu, Chico and Jonathan de Guzman (season-long loan) in making moves to southern Wales.
Keenly aware of the untold importance confidence can exert on both a team and its fanbase, Laudrup noted that he moved quickly to replace Sinclair on the wing with a like-for-like transfer for Hernandez.
"I want a good squad with the right number of players and it was important that if we lost Scott then we replaced him," Laudrup told the official site.
Laudrup has only just gotten his managerial tenure under way, but he has managed to build upon the solid foundation built by his predecessor, Brendan Rodgers, and begin the current campaign with two resounding victories (5-0 away to Queens Park Rangers, 3-0 at home to West Ham United).
That saw Swansea briefly occupy first place last weekend before settling in second, where they reside heading into Saturday's match against resurgent Sunderland.
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The Swans also won their Capital One Cup match 3-1 over Barnsley in midweek, just for good measure.
Swansea are playing some scintillating football, led by new signing Michu, who has been a revelation at attacking midfielder. That forward Danny Graham scored his first goal of the season against West Ham, and nabbed another against Barnsley, will only have bolstered the side's confidence that much more.
The man who made the bugle celebration a phenomenon has a habit of scoring in bunches, and his latest glut augurs well for the upcoming fixture.
A third league win ahead of next week's international break would instill a palpable sense of confidence within Laudrup's side. Expect them to turn on the panache at the Liberty.
Lest We Forget, Sunderland Are on a Roll of Their Own
According to Sunderland's official Twitter account, tickets for the traveling band of Black Cats supporters were sold out as soon as Tuesday. Such is the anticipation pervading over this encounter, which promises to see new signings Adam Johnson and Steven Fletcher make their league debuts.
Both played during Tuesday's Capital One Cup match against Morecambe, with Johnson assisting one of James McClean's two goals from a corner kick.
Fletcher, who had seen his preseason interrupted by his protracted transfer away from Wolves, was thrilled to finally get his feet wet this season.
Scorer of 12 league goals last season, Fletcher has glossed about his new surroundings. Like Johnson, who grew up in Easington, the move to Wearside is a step closer to home for the forward.
Effusive in his praise of manager Martin O'Neill, Fletcher has to like the ambition shown by Sunderland this season. They've thrown their hat in the ring for Clint Dempsey while starting their season with an impressive defensive performance away to Arsenal (the match ended in a 0-0 draw).
O'Neill presided over a sea change in the club's fortunes after taking over from Steve Bruce midway last season, and he has instilled an unflappable streak in his side. The defense is set; now, fans turn to the attack, which is getting better and better.
It Should be a Spectacle to Behold
While Saturday's match doesn't quite take on the veneer of an unstoppable force meeting an immovable object, it does pit two burgeoning sides brimming with confidence against each other.
There should be goals and there should be some breathtaking play on both ends of the pitch. Sunderland's approach could make for an interesting plot point—will O'Neill loosen the defensive reins a bit to free up the likes of Fletcher and Johnson?
The likeliest scenario sees Sunderland use an game plan similar to the one used at the Emirates two weeks ago. Johnson can strike at a moment's notice, and Fletcher doesn't need much to thrive up top.
Swansea struggled to cope with another savvy winger in West Ham's Matt Jarvis last weekend, and one would think that Johnson will have sought out that game tape as he prepares for his first league match in his new colors.
The contrast could be striking but if Swansea score early, the game could definitely open up. Both sides have signaled their intentions of not only cracking the top 10 in the final league standings this season, but the top eight.
Saturday could serve as a good litmus test where both teams' aspirations are concerned.
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