Swansea City AFC vs Manchester City FC
Liberty Stadium, Swansea. 11th March 2012, KO 14.00
By BlueinBosnia for mancityfans.net
Fresh from their second trip to Portugal of 2012, Manchester City visit mid-table Swansea City this weekend. Going into the game at the top of the table, City will be hoping to take maximum points from the fixture. Swansea, on the other hand, will know that a win could potentially catapult them into the top half.
The Premier League newcomers have firmly established themselves as neutrals’ favourites. Their meteoric rise from near-bankruptcy and the foot of the Football League less than ten years ago under the stewardship of chairman Huw Jenkins has seen them become the first Welsh club to enter the Premier League. Their inaugural Premier League campaign started with a trial by fire at the Etihad, losing 4-0, but they have since achieved a series of results which currently hold them 11 points clear of the relegation melee.
The two clubs have met before in the league 21 times, but (somewhat surprisingly) never in a senior cup competition, the most extraordinary of these fixtures being in 1927-28, when the two fixtures between the teams – held just eight games apart – yielded an incredible 19 goals (a 7-4 victory for City at Maine Road, with the Swans taking the spoils in a 5-3 game at the Vetch). The teams cohabited the old First and Second Divisions together between 1981 and 1984, with the teams being relegated together at the end of the 1982-83 season, with both teams’ situations in part to blame on financial mismanagement. However, the teams’ paths of fortune soon parted, with City returning to the top flight after two seasons, while Swansea plummeted to the foot of the Football League, with three relegations in four seasons, mirroring their meteoric rise under John Toshack just a few years earlier. During that period, the two teams played six times, with City winning four and Swansea two. The last match between the two clubs in Wales ended in a 2-0 victory to City, with goals from Derek Parlane (who was sold to Swansea the following season) and Steve Kinsey.
City have rarely ventured into Wales since that game, with the most recent trip resulting in a 2-0 victory over TNS in the 2003-04 UEFA Cup Qualifying Round.
Old and New: The Vetch (top) and the Liberty (bottom)
Swansea left the Vetch Field, their home since 1912, at the end of the 2004-05 campaign for the 20,000-seat Liberty Stadium, which is shared with regional rugby side the Ospreys. Although for the majority of fans, this will be their first visit, this isn’t the first time a City team has visited the Liberty. On 2nd December 2008, City played the Swans in the third round of the FA Youth Cup, coming away 3-0 victors with Robbie Mak opening the scoring, and Alex Nimeley grabbing a brace. From that match, only one player has represented either side in the Premier League this season; Ashley Darrel Jazz Richards, the Wales U-21 right back, who generally acts as understudy to Spaniard Angel Rangel.
Swansea Fans – Upstanding Members of Society
Like City, the Swans have been inundated with latecomers to the party. Attendances have swelled this season, and the club has, at times, issued requests to fans to refrain from wearing opposition teams’ colours in the home stands. Nevertheless, the club fills their stadium for almost all matches, and plans for expansion are already being mooted, in spite of the controversial granting of planning permission in recent weeks for a fast food restaurant adjacent to the ground in a lot that would prove crucial to the stadium’s development. However, the club has always had a relatively strong core of regular supporters (including their notorious mascot, Cyril) who consider the Vetch’s North Bank their spiritual home, akin to City’s Kippax, who should ensure a lively atmosphere!
After 27 league games, Swansea have enforced their reputation for playing an entertaining passing game, which they began to develop under Robert Martinez’s stewardship, and continued under the management of Paolo Sousa and now Brendan Rodgers. With Rodgers having this week quashed rumours that he is interested in returning to former club Chelsea, fans can rest assured that Swansea will continue to play in their current vein. The passing game promoted by Rodgers has also made an impact on the Europe-wide statistics, with midfielder Leon Britton vying with Barcelona’s Xavi for the best passing accuracy record, and Joe Allen also featuring in the Top 5, keeping out the likes of Andrés Iniesta. Britton is also the only creative player in Premier League history to register a 100% pass success rate in a game.
Swansea’s signing strategy was the subject of much scrutiny at the start of the season. With goalkeeper Dorus de Vries having joined Wolverhampton Wanderers on a free transfer, Swansea were forced to dive into the transfer market, signing de Vries’ compatriot Michel Vorm from Utrecht for €1.7 million. Vorm has proved to be a revelation, topping lists of ‘Best value transfer of the season’ from pundits and fans alike, and consistently putting in performances which will surely bring attention from clubs of greater stature. Premier League experience was added to the squad with the signings of Leroy Lita (Middlesbrough) and Wayne Routledge (Newcastle)
“Danny Graham is one in every three striker in lower leagues who had a fine (not great, but fine) season in the Championship. He’ll be eaten alive by Premier League defenders.”
“This is exactly how you build a team that will go down immediately and probably in debt as well.”
Graham seems to have disproved some of the sentiments espoused by Manchester City fans upon hearing of his signing. With 10 Premier League goals to his name this season, the club’s record £3.5 million signing has proved a valuable asset to Swansea’s campaign.
Rodgers continued to build on his reputation for astute signings in the January transfer window, capturing widely-touted youngster Rory Donnelly from Cliftonville, and loanees Gylfi Sigurðsson (whom Rodgers had previously managed at Reading) and Josh McEachran, from 1899 Hoffenheim and Chelsea respectively.
End of season prospects?
The general desire amongst neutral fans is for Swansea’s survival in their bid to avoid relegation. However, the club may be aiming higher. With an 11-point safety net already in place, and a packed mid-table, Swansea could realistically aim for a top half finish. Furthermore, Swansea’s story of the season may not simply end with Premier League safety and the garnering of new friends for their flowing football. The team are currently second in the Premier League’s Fair Play table, behind dead-certs for European competition Tottenham Hotspur. Providing the rest of the league behaves itself, Swansea could be entering further unknown territory next season in the Europa League. This would be the club’s first competition on the European stage since 1991-92, when, as Welsh Cup winners, they were thrashed 10-1 by eventual winners AS Monaco in the First Round of the Cup Winners’ Cup.
Long-term absentee Ferrie Bodde has recently suffered a further setback, with an injury to his right knee, which will keep him out for an indefinite amount of time.
Nathan Dyer begins his three-match suspension following his dismissal in the 2-0 win over Wigan. However, Leroy Lita is expected to recover from illness in time to participate.
Mancini has hinted at dropping Mario Balotelli after he breached a club curfew in the days preceding last week’s 2-0 win over Bolton Wanderers. Such a move could see outcast Carlos Tevez make the bench. The type of reception he would receive from either set of fans were he to feature is yet to be seen.
City’s right backs Micah Richards and Pablo Zabaleta are both injured, although it is believed there is a chance Richards could feature on the bench.
Swansea City 0 – 2 Manchester City
Without the suspended Dyer, Swansea will lack a considerable part of their ability to counter-attack, and their offence will fall mute against City’s attack-minded play. In spite of Vorm’s reputation as one of the best stoppers in the league, defensive slip-ups will cost Swansea dearly.
With thanks to john68 & Hywel R. Jones