Can Careless Swans Make Amends?
Michael Laudrup does not look the type to lose his rag too often, but we can be sure that the Swansea boss was seething inside after they threw away two points in the closing moments of their Europa League tie against Kuban Krasnador in South Wales a fortnight ago.
The Swans could hardly have wished for a better start to their European campaign when stunning Valencia 3-0 in Spain on Matchday One, but much of that good work was undone when they gave away an added-time penalty against a decent Russian outfit, converted gleefully by ex-Liverpool and QPR striker Djibril Cisse.
It wasn’t a fatal wound – Swansea are still 4/6 to finish top of Group A and 16/1 to win the competition outright. But though Laudrup typically praised the opposition and reckoned that a draw was probably a fair result overall, he will nonetheless be impressing on his squad that any more careless play could be extremely damaging, especially later in the tournament against better opposition.
Expect a more focused Swansea (8/5) on Thursday evening. Kuban Krasnador have won both their domestic games since the last clash, but languish in mid-table in the Russian Premier League and may not get away with it against Michu and company twice in a row.
Wigan are 100/1 to win the competition with Coral and nobody really expects them to pull it off, but it has been a wonderful first European experience for the Championship side.
They’re still in a decent position to qualify for the knock-out stages and all won’t be lost even if they go down to Rubin Kazan (4/9).
Only 12th of 16 in the Russian League (three points behind Kuban Krasnador), Rubin aren’t the force they were when playing in the Champions League not so long ago, but should still have the edge over Wigan after their 1-1 draw in Lancashire a fortnight ago.
Wigan should still make a good game of it and in Nick Powell, they have an in-form attacking midfielder who might give the home defence plenty to think about. Already the scorer of three goals in Group D, the Manchester United loanee is 7/2 to be on the scoresheet again (10/1 first or last).
Spurs are Coral’s 13/2 favourites to go all the way and they are unlikely to be troubled at all by Sheriff Tiraspol at White Hart Lane. Andre Villas-Boas’s boys won in a canter in Moldova and will surely do so again with Jermain Defoe (2/1 to open or close the scoring, 2/5 to net at any time) no doubt looking forward to filling his boots again after grabbing four in the first three Group K games.