24 February 2013

2013 League Cup Final preview

Bradford City striker James Hanson is a big threat up front.

This season's League Cup has ensured that today will see one set of long-suffering fans having the time of their lives, as Swansea City and Bradford City go head-to-head in the competition's most hotly-anticipated final for years.

The last time these two sides met was in 2007, when they drew 2-2 in a League One game at Valley Parade, where 7,347 fans were in attendance. Six years on, Wembley Stadium is the scene, and the attendance is likely to be more than ten times that - possibly over 80,000, in fact.

Both teams have had to overcome difficult obstacles in the years building up to their day out at Wembley. As Swans boss Michael Laudrup put it, "It's not the underdog against one of the big teams, it's the under-under-underdog versus the underdog."

The under-under-underdog in this clash is Bradford City, the first fourth-tier team to get to the League Cup Final since Rochdale in 1962. They were 2000/1 outsiders at the start of the tournament and are still long odds against to lift the trophy, but a team that has already put Wigan Athletic, Arsenal and Aston Villa to bed  may not necessarily fear Swansea.

After relegation from the Premier League in 2001, Bradford were soon on the very verge of going out of existence. After surviving two administrations, they fell into League Two in 2007 and haven't been back in the top three divisions since. As things stand, it's unlikely but not impossible that they'll change that last statistic this season, as they are currently 11th in English football's fourth division.

As for the starting XI, Yorkshire native Rory McArdle - who plays internationally for Northern Ireland - is battling for fitness after an ankle injury. He could be a threat from set-pieces alongside fellow defender Carl McHugh, who has brought over 100 or so family and friends from his tiny Irish village of Lettermacaward.

Striker Andy Gray is cup-tied, so the Bantams' in-demand manager Phil Parkinson will turn once again to Nahki Wells and James Hanson up front. It could be a Roy of the Rovers fairytale for Hanson, as four years ago, 'Big Jim' was stacking shelves at his local Co-op supermarket.

Captain Gary Jones, who had a very brief spell at Swansea early in his career, will lead out the Bradford team with nine-year-old cancer survivor Jake Turton, whose story has inspired the 35-year-old and his team-mates.

Gerhard Tremmel is Swansea's number 1 when it comes to the League Cup.

Swansea City, meanwhile, find themselves in the unusual position of being the hot favourites to win in their first ever major cup final. Winning the League Cup would certainly boost the reputation of Michael Laudrup - the Welsh team's Danish manager, who has been linked with almost every big job going in recent weeks.

Ten years ago, Swansea were on the verge of dropping from the old Division 3 into the Conference - a league from which some teams have never returned. Only a final-day victory over Hull City saved them from potential oblivion. Leon Britton was in that very team, and the midfielder has been with them almost every step of their way up the leagues.

Garry Monk, like Britton, played for the Swans when they were in League Two. He is hoping to feature for them today, and his chances of making the team have been boosted by the absence of Chico due to an ankle injury.

Swansea's second-choice goalkeeper Gerhard Tremmel has proven to be more than an understudy to Michel Vorm when he has played in the League Cup this season. The German's impressive form has been rewarded with a starting place for the Final, and while Tremmel tries to keep the ball out of his net, star forward Michu will hope to put the ball into the other, like he has done with great regularity this term.

Save for Chelsea forward Eden Hazard's confrontation with a local ball-boy in the Semi Final second leg, Swansea's run to the Final has not attracted as many column inches as Bradford's. Nevertheless, it takes a fine team to knock out the holders Liverpool and the aforementioned Chelsea in the same competition.

Because it's such a big occasion, and because Swansea have done so well this season (they are 9th in the Premier League, putting them 70 places above today's opponents), it's difficult to predict Bradford having the dream ending to their fairytale. But should the Bantams hold firm and take the game to penalties, put your money on them - they've won an English-record nine consecutive shoot-outs.

If that happened again, it would be the stuff Hollywood films are made of.

TDTR PREDICTS: Bradford City 1-3 Swansea City

No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: only a member of this blog may post a comment.