Swans boss Paul Clement says he's in no doubt his players have the stomach for a survival fight ahead of Stoke clash.
Paul Clement is in no doubt his players have the stomach for a survival fight as they head into Saturday’s crunch clash with Stoke City.
The Swans are two points adrift of safety with just five games of a turbulent season to come and will look to end a six-match win-less streak when they face the Potters.
Clement’s side put together a rousing run of five wins in eight Premier League games following his appointment at the beginning of January.
But their recent slump in form has put the Swans back in relegation danger – and left them facing flak about their failure to deliver in recent weeks.
Nevertheless, an upbeat Clement remains convinced his players will ensure the scrap to stay up will go right to the wire.
“I think there has been some criticism this week about a lack of effort or lack of passion, but I don’t believe the players are not trying or that they don’t understand what’s at stake,” said the Swans head coach.
“They know how important this is for the club, for the fans and for the city.
“The big thing is that the belief is still there. With five games to go, I still believe there are a lot of twists and turns ahead and I still think it will go to the very end.
“The players are up for this fight, 100 per cent. I have seen them battling, going at it hammer and tong in training this week.
“They know how important this game against Stoke is and the intensity in training has been there.
“I think if I had been something different – a flat mood or a lack of belief – I would be worried, but I haven’t and I am not.”
Clement has billed the Stoke game as “must-win” for his team because he thinks relegation rivals Hull City will triumph in their home game against Watford this weekend.
“Hull’s home form has been good and Watford are in a comfortable position after their win over us, so based on that I think Hull will win,” he added.
“I think that means we have to win. We have five games left, three of them at home. All games are difficult, but there are a couple in there that are really tough.
“Our home form is a lot better than our away form and we need to continue that this weekend.”
Clement revealed that Jack Cork will again miss out this weekend with the ankle injury he picked up at West Ham, with the midfielder expected to come back into contention for the trip to Manchester United a week on Saturday.
Wayne Routledge is also set to sit out the Stoke clash after being sent to see a specialist following a hernia complaint.
While a win over Stoke would be a major boost, Clement believes his team must put a run of results together over the next month if they are to survive.
“I think we are going to need three wins and maybe another point,” he said.
“I don’t know for sure, of course. It could be less or it could be more.
“But looking back at the statistics of what’s happened in previous seasons, where we are now and who the clubs have still got to play, that looks a realistic target to me.”
Clement on Routledge’s injury
“Wayne has a small hernia issue and he is seeing a specialist today. We are awaiting the outcome of that.
“He will be unavailable this weekend, but even if he needs to have something done, he could be back within a couple of weeks.
“He has been feeling it for a couple of weeks and it got worse in a training session this week.
“He has contributed a lot since I have been here and if that’s going to mean a lay-off for him, it’s disappointing.”
Clement on the plan for Stoke
“We have a really big game on Saturday. The pressure is on the players but we have to deal with that.
“We have to focus on putting in a good performance. That’s all we can control.
“We cannot control what Stoke will do, who they will pick or what system they will use. We have to focus on getting our performance right and if we do that, we have to believe we will have a good chance to win.”
Clement on criticism of Fernando Llorente’s ’20-metre sprint’ at Watford
“I heard about that. Believe it or not, that’s 20 metres more than he has done in two other games for us.
“That figure would never have been mentioned if we’d won. At Liverpool, Fernando scored twice and his figure for sprints was zero metres.
“It’s very difficult to look at one player’s statistics in isolation. The most Fernando has sprinted in any game since I came here was 65 metres.
“He is not that type of player. If I wanted someone sprinting up front, then it would be not be Fernando.”
Clement on Stoke
“They have a number of dangerous players – people like (Xherdan) Shaqiri and (Marko) Arnautovic are matchwinners.
“They also have strength in depth. (Peter) Crouch gives another dynamic, (Saido) Berahino is an exciting prospect and (Jonathan) Walters is a good focal point.
“They have a lot of experience elsewhere in the team as well, and they have a very experienced manager in Mark Hughes.
“He said before the last game that they want to win every game from here on in, so they will come here with a lot of determination.”
Clement on Leon Britton
“He has been excellent since I have been here, as a person and a professional.
“He is not so young any more – even the demands of training have been difficult for him at times.
“But he is in good shape and he is available for selection this weekend. He is still a really good footballer with a lot of quality and that’s something I am thinking about.”