When these two sides last met they both had 100% records – that was mid-September and Swansea were fresh from a stellar start to the Premier League season.
Fast-forward to the New Year and things are a little different in South Wales. Wilfried Bony has been sold to Manchester City and the Swans are without Sung-Yeung, Shelvey and Montero through international duty, suspension and injury respectively.
With Swansea’s contingency plans stretched to the max we take a look at the areas where Saturday's game against Chelsea will be won and lost.
Gylfi Sigurdsson vs. Nemanja Matic
As with most games, this one will be won and lost in the midfield – but now that Bony has left South Wales, Swansea’s best hopes of a good result will have to come from this department.
Since arriving from Spurs last summer, Gylfi Sigurdsson has made a real impact at the Liberty Stadium. He’s been involved in more Swansea goals than any other player scoring four and setting up eight. He has tremendous vision, ball control and passing ability, can shoot from distance and has a wicked free-kick.
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He will have to be at his best though as he is exactly the kind of player Nemanja Matic is deployed to shackle; and it’s a job the Serbian has done with relentless efficiency all season long. His invincible image may have been torn down in Chelsea’s debacle at White Hart Lane but his performance against Newcastle showed that game was perhaps nothing more than a blip on a stunning report card. A lot of Sigurdsson’s brilliance came from an uncanny understanding with Wilfried Bony – with him now gone it could prove to be the place for Matic to start as he looks to contain the creative Icelander.
Leon Britton vs. Eden Hazard
The tricky Belgian attacking-midfielder has been almost unplayable in recent weeks and would have been tough for Swansea to deal with even if they had their first choice defensive midfielders available – as the reverse of this fixture showed in September.
But with Ki Sung-Yeung on international duty with South Korea at the AFC Asian Cup and Jonjo Shelvey still serving a four-game suspension for allegedly elbowing Emre Can in the face that leaves Leon Britton and Tom Carroll to deputise for the Swans.
Leon Britton is without a doubt Mr. Swansea City having represented the club at all four levels and made 388 league appearances over thirteen years. But he’s not getting any younger and despite his surprising knack for winning the ball back he won’t have the pace to keep up with Hazard – and when you give him time and space he can have a devastating impact.
Nathan Dyer vs. Filipe Luis
The little English winger is one of the quickest wide-men in the Premier League right now and will have the opportunity to give Filipe Luis’ a tough test on his first visit to the Liberty Stadium.
Following the injury to Cesar Azpilicueta, the former Atletico Madrid man will have the perfect opportunity to prove to Mourinho that he’s good enough to fight the Spaniard for his plans once he returns. If he can negate one of the most dangerous players in this fixture he’ll do just that.
After a rapid (in every sense of the word) start to the season Dyer has admittedly slipped to the periphery at Swansea City over the last couple of months. The exit of Bony could prove a game-changer once again as Garry Monk will be expecting his players to step up and pick up the slack – and from what we’ve seen of the Swans so far this season when Monk puts the pressure on they tend to deliver.
Bafetimbi Gomis vs. John Terry
The African Cup of Nations may prove to be a blessing in disguise for Garry Monk’s men. The Swans boss had been making his January plans with the absence of Wilfried Bony already in mind. Plenty of work will have been done with Bafetimbi Gomis over the last few weeks and all of that appeared to have come to fruition when he all but scored last week against West Ham.
Just as much of a physical presence than Bony, Gomis will certainly give John Terry an afternoon to remember. The Chelsea captain should be up to the challenge – he normally is – but Gomis is still something of an enigma having only made three league starts this season. So it will be hard for Terry to prepare completely.
Diego Costa vs. Ashley Williams
Costa ran Williams absolutely ragged at Stamford Bridge in September scoring a hat-trick in the process. Costa’s knack to end up in the right place at the right time is about the only quality that Williams’ hard working never-say-die attitude to defend cannot negate.
When Williams lines up against strikers he can man mark and get in the face of he tends to have a commanding game. But his lack of manoeuvrability is easily exposed by Costa’s elusiveness in the box so we should expect to see plenty of shots fired at Lukasz Fabianski’s goal.
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