Alan Curtis admits Swansea City’s season is likely to be defined by their matches against fellow strugglers in March.
The Welsh club visit two Premier League title contenders in the space of four days – Tottenham on Sunday and Arsenal on Wednesday – and two defeats would drag them further into relegation peril with Swansea currently three points above 18th-placed Newcastle.
But Curtis says it is the looming run of games against Norwich, Bournemouth and Aston Villa which will determine whether Swansea will be kicking off a sixth successive season in the top flight come August.
“We know Spurs will be tough and it’s followed quickly by Arsenal,” said Curtis, who was standing in for ill head coach Francesco Guidolin at Swansea’s pre-match press conference.
“But then it’s a massive game against Norwich and with the position that both clubs are in, that becomes a key game.
“We know those three games against Norwich, Bournemouth and Villa could define our season. We didn’t expect to find ourselves in this situation but we’re all aware of where we are.
“There’s a bit more emphasis to try and improve in all areas, and everybody is trying to make sure they’re fit and well to get results until the end of the season.”
Curtis insisted Guidolin would be well enough to take his place in the Swansea dug-out at White Hart Lane, saying he expected him to take training on Friday morning.
The Italian began his Liberty Stadium reign with an unbeaten three-match run, a first-ever Swansea victory at Everton followed by draws against West Brom and Crystal Palace.
But Swansea slipped to a timid 1-0 home defeat to Southampton last time out, when they barely laid a glove on Ronald Koeman’s in-form Saints.
“The Southampton game was the one big blip since Francesco’s been here,” said Curtis.
“Their system is difficult to play against, we couldn’t find any answers to it and any defeat piles the pressure on you.
“We didn’t see that coming as the performances have been quite good until then. But I feel sure the players will respond, even though they have a difficult week ahead of them.”
Swansea hold a three-point advantage over Newcastle and Norwich – who are only outside the relegation zone on goal difference – while Sunderland’s victory over Manchester United nearly two weeks ago has put them within four of Guidolin’s side.
“The Southampton game was disappointing but it’s one defeat in five for us,” said Curtis.
“We’re all putting pressure on ourselves and we know we have to up our game considerably and get on another run. Even though these are difficult games at Spurs and Arsenal, we have to try and get something out of them.
“But you look ahead to Norwich and the Bournemouth and Villa games after that and that’s when our season could come together.”