Football

Preview: Swansea v Cardiff

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Bellamy and Zaha celebrating the crucial win against Norwich (©GettyImages)
Bellamy and Zaha celebrating the crucial win against Norwich (©GettyImages).

Fans thought it couldn't get much more important than a first Welsh derby in the Premier League, but this afternoon’s fixture could be even more pivotal than the earlier meeting back in November.

Back then it was Malky Mackay and Michael Laudrup in charge of the Bluebirds and the Swans, but both have felt the fall of the managerial axe as the Premier League enters arguably one of its tightest relegation battles to date.

Laudrup’s own swansong came with defeat to West Ham, themselves benefitting from the returning Andy Caroll and his partnership with Kevin Nolan.

Garry Monk has taken temporary charge, and wants the job permanently - how better to make an impression than in the upcoming derby?

The man in the opposition dugout, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, has had a little more time to adjust to life as a Premier League manager but still found his efforts fruitless until last weekend, where Cardiff came from behind to steal a vital three points away from relegation rivals Norwich.

He said he wants to make history by winning the first Welsh derby double, and Cardiff desperately need to put a run together sooner rather than later if they are to survive the drop.

Sacked not Stolen

Over the past decade a string of Swansea managers have delivered a brand of exciting, passing football, but none have parted company with the club in the manner that Laudrup has.

The likes of Brendan Rodgers and Roberto Martinez have been poached by bigger clubs, and were both in opposing dugouts for the recent Merseyside derby between Liverpool and Everton.

But Laudrup - who himself was linked with the vacant Everton position in the summer - is the first manager the club have sacked inside a decade and it’s a clear indication that chairman Huw Jenkins felt the club needed a change.

Former Swansea captain Monk has been at the club for 10 years and knows the club inside out.

His passion will be unrivaled and he’s the perfect leader for a derby.

Many have questioned the timing of Laudrup’s sacking but with only one win in 10 and a vital game coming up, the writing was on the wall and a change was needed sooner rather than later.

Swansea aren't in as deep a trouble as Cardiff, but they were on a slippery slope and will be hoping Monk can relieve their descent.

Returning Heroes and New Hopes

It would be an understatement to say that Michu has been missed at the Liberty Stadium - his 18 goals in the league last season buoyed Swansea to 9th place and looked set to provide a platform to build off.

But a long lay-off has clipped the Swans' wings, and they’ll be desperate to see him back.

At the other end of the pitch, goalkeeper Michel Vorm will be looking to redeem himself after being sent off in the reverse fixture and sealing defeat for Swansea.

Monk will be required to make big calls on two of his stars after they recently returned to training; will they be risked in such a big game, and could it go on to worsen their respective injuries?

Meanwhile, Cardiff could have a new talisman in Wilfried Zaha after the Manchester United loanee’s introduction against Norwich sparked the comeback which gave Solskjaer his first three points in charge of the Bluebirds.

After a severe lack of game-time since his switch to Old Trafford, the former Palace winger now has a chance to get regular first-team football and could even be the man to save Cardiff's season if he can inspire more performances like the one against Norwich.

Prediction

Neither side has done the double over their closest rivals, and Swansea’s league position is slightly better going into the game.

There’s a difference between knowing the history and being a part of it, and that’s an asset Monk definitely has over Solskjaer.

The potential returns of Vorm and Michu also bode well for the Swans, so what’s stopping them winning?

Cardiff have been in the relegation dogfight for some time, and came into the season expecting that to be the case.

They have plenty of passion and, in spite of recent turmoil involving Malky Mackay, the players will be determined to survive for the fans and so that the departure of their former manager wasn't in vain.

While the Bluebirds were set to be scrapping with the Tigers, Eagles and the like, the Swans probably expected the season to go…well, swimmingly.

However, their fall from mid-table safety to relegation contenders has been a slide they could ill-afford and it has come at the wrong time. 

Swansea’s issue of passing without purpose should be resolved by a ferocious desire to win in the derby and take the bragging rights for the foreseeable future, and a return for Michu could spark an impressive partnership with Wilfried Bony.

Meanwhile Cardiff have their own assets, with contrasting experience and exuberance on the wings in Bellamy and Zaha likely to be crucial as we enter the latter stages of the season.

Only three points separate the two sides going into the game, and it wouldn't be surprising to see that gap unchanged come tonight: 1-1

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Topics:
Swansea City
Cardiff City
Premier League
Football
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