Early Doors

Swansea damaged goods after Liverpool rout

Mission accomplished, sort of.

Yesterday, Swansea certainly achieved their primary aim of keeping their squad physically intact ahead of Sunday's Capital One Cup final when sending a near-reserve side to Anfield to face Liverpool.

Whether they emerged mentally unscathed or not is another matter entirely though, having been on the receiving end of one of the great pastings in Premier League history.

It may have been 'only' 5-0, but this was unmistakably a harrowing afternoon for Swansea, who had two shots at goal to Liverpool's 35 - the most by any team in Europe's top divisions this season. It wasn't so much a match as a public flogging, and with strong claims for a third penalty denied and Daniel Sturridge hitting the bar, it might have been even more brutal.

Which leads Early Doors to ask: What kind of preparation is this for a cup final?

Michael Laudrup bravely attempted the precarious balancing act of keeping key players fresh yet maintaining some kind of form and failed pretty spectacularly.

Michu, Ashley Williams and Ki Sung-yueng all had an afternoon off, while Nathan Dyer, Angel Rangel and Wayne Routledge all played minor roles and should also be fresh as daisies for Sunday's meeting with Bradford.

While in theory, resting big-name players is a smart move, it strikes ED that a week was probably sufficient recovery time in any case. Did Swansea really need to roll over and leave themselves quite so exposed to a shoeing?

Now Laudrup has given himself an unenviable problem with squad confidence and morale just a week before the biggest match in his managerial career; Swansea have a result that will hang over them in the coming days like a particularly bad smell.

If you are only as good as your last game, then maybe Laudrup's men are vulnerable to one of the biggest cup shocks of all time after all.

After resisting the temptation to issue P45s all round, the Dane himself admitted that such a terrible defeat could have a knock-on effect when it comes to the Bradford match.

"When you win it gives you confidence and it is the opposite when you lose," he added. "The team I put on the pitch had performed at other times. Every player needs to look inside and wonder what they could have done better.

"I will not exclude that some players are thinking of next week which will be human because it is the biggest game in the history of the club."

Some might have been daydreaming of next week, but any of those who started the massacre at Anfield will be lucky to get a game against Bradford now.

The utter incompetence on display even spread to normally reliable players, with Routledge coming on as a sub and mindlessly punching the ball in the box to concede the penalty which Sturridge scored from.

There was no disguising Laudrup's disgust either.

"It was a nightmare," he said. "We got slaughtered and it was awful - it could have been 10-0, and I am responsible as I pick the team.

"We just have to say sorry to the fans who travelled, because we did not compete at all and even though we made changes that is no excuse at all.

"I thought we were capable of getting a result, but I am wrong, and I have to take the blame for that. I don't want to put my finger on anyone, but I am disappointed. I learnt a lot for the future."

Lesson No. 1 must be: don't rest all your good players for a trip to Anfield. Not if your big game is still seven days away anyway.

In truth, a loss by one or two goals would have been acceptable collateral damage for ensuring a clean week of League Cup final preparation. But not a humbling on this grand scale. ED has covered hundreds of games over the past few years and can't remember a bigger battering in terms of the discrepancy in the number of chances for each side. Liverpool had 33 more than Swansea.

Laudrup must now try to consign this result to history and make sure his players aren't too damaged as a result. Any sense of lingering insecurity or embarrassment needs to have been shaken off by the time they don their Wembley suits and amble around the turf of the national stadium on Sunday.

They are still massive favourites of course - and Sunday's Swansea team will have a very different complexion to it - but if there's one thing that will give lowly League Two Bradford City a bit of hope approaching Sunday's final, it is watching tape of Swansea having their pants pulled down.

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QUOTE OF THE DAY: "We were surprised today with some comments. It's totally rubbish. We didn't have any problem. We were talking about football with the team. He was training yesterday, we had normal conversations. Everything was fine. I was really surprised." - Rafa Benitez denies suggestions that he is at 'WAR' with Chelsea captain John Terry, as the Sun on Sunday put it in their back-page headline yesterday.

FOREIGN VIEW: Thought the French title was a foregone conclusion? Think again. Paris St Germain's Ligue 1 lead was trimmed to three points as they slumped to a 3-2 defeat at Sochaux that ended a nine-match unbeaten league run on Sunday. Cedric Bakambu netted the winner six minutes from time as PSG conceded three goals in a league game for the first time this season.

COMING UP: There's the small matter of the FA Cup fifth-round tie between Manchester United and Reading at Old Trafford tonight, with kick-off at 8pm. Prior to that, Jan Molby gives us his take on the weekend's football action and we bring you our European Team of the Week and the latest insight into Ligue 1 with Pitchside Europe.