Swansea City will run out in front of the Sky TV cameras at midday today knowing another win will see them sit joint top of the Championship table. Standing in their way is former coach Pep Clotet and his dangerous Birmingham side. Will Cooper’s Troopers rise to the top or suffer a dose of the Blues? ATFV serves up the TV trailer in this Swans v Birmingham Match Preview, sponsored by Drop Bear Beer.
The excitement around the Swans is hitting fever pitch, points and goals galore taking the club into the upper echelons of the fledgling Championship table. Adding to that excitement today is the prospect of hitting the top of the table (well joint top with Dirty Leeds) in front of the Sky TV cameras, and the near certainty that most Swans will make the most of an early kick off on a scorching Bank Holiday weekend to make a day of proceedings.
The one thing that can spoil the party is Birmingham City ruthlessly handing out a dose of the Blues…and they are more than capable.
Steve Cooper will no doubt push aside thoughts of a party as he demonstrates the single minded desire to win every game he takes part in. Some will call that attitude naive others will label it refreshing – and after too many years in the Premier League setting out not to lose at all costs I’m firmly in the latter camp.
So what does singleminded Steve have at his disposal to get the win this afternoon? The answer is exactly what he had the other night when he delivered victory over Queens Park Rangers.
A much better performance from Connor Roberts means I have to retract my Kyle Naughton threat against him from the last preview and the whole defensive unit will continue as it has all season. That means another chance for Jake Bidwell to create goals and kick someone up in the air on the left side, with Mike van der Hoorn and Joe Rodon in front of Freddie Woodman once more.
The Lumberjack was in fine form again at QPR making a couple of crucial saves and bossing around those in front of him with calm authority. Woodman is showing how important a solid goalkeeper is to a team’s chances – but then Swans fans knew just that after witnessing two ‘keepers last season that were as solid as a Rowntrees Jelly slammed through a liquidiser.
The two centre backs in front of Woodman were just as crucial to the success against QPR, Rodon in particular shaking off the criticism from the previous game to put in a titanic performance. QPR certainly weren’t passive participants in the game last Wednesday and it took numerous interventions by Joe to snuff out the threat they posed.
I can’t see any changes in the middle of the park either. Even though he had a quiet game in midweek I still see George Byers starting in the pivotal position of 10 with Fulton and Cap’n Grimes providing the defensive screen behind him.
It does of course mean Celina out on the left wing again but there are a number of factors that make it the right call right now. For a start Cooper will be without the services of two first wingers, Nathan Dyer and Aldo Kalulu, who both remain on the injured list. New signing Kristoffer Petersen has only shown glimpses of his game so far and seemingly needs time to adjust.
That just leaves the exciting shape of Jordon Garrick for the wide positions – and whilst everyone wants to see so much more of the tricky speedster he’s going to need careful handling over this crucial stage of his development. There’s nobody better than Cooper to do that and I’m sure he’ll not rush the lad at this stage. Besides, what a strike weapon to have on the bench! Twice already Garrick has come on to totally change a game and “impact sub” is probably the best role for him right now.
Over on the right hand side it can only be Ayew of the Andre variety in the starting blocks. He’s still here. He’s still being paid. He’s still fighting for the cause, creating and scoring goals. Therefore he’s still in the team.
Hell look, I’m still suspicious of the guy’s agent (and yes I know it’s his father) and I still break out in a nasty dose of hives every time I think of not only his wages but his appearance fee and goal bonuses. I’ll put my hand up and say that I argued against him being involved with the squad…but Ayew is proving me absolutely wrong at this time with a feverish work rate being matched to his undoubted ability. Under those conditions – and if financial miracle worker Birch can make it sustainable – then Ayew should stay, and stay in the team.
The same can be said for the zero to undroppable hero up front, Borja Baston. Another hardworking performance in midweek was rewarded with another goal for the Spaniard, this one an emphatic penalty under severe pressure to restore the lead away from home and pour a bucket of cold water over QPR’s second half dominance.
It was massively encouraging to see Sam Surridge on the scoresheet in the same game but for the moment the on loan Bournemouth forward should be viewed as Borja’s deputy. That’ll change if the Spaniard leaves for pastures new in the next week or if we ever end up with the ‘Bob Bradley Borja’ again – but for now, our No.9 is bubbling with confidence and goals, and long may it continue!
The Anticipated ATFV Line-Up: Woodman; Roberts; van der Hoorn; Rodon; Bidwell; Grimes; Fulton; Byers; Celina; Ayew; Borja
Birmingham City head to the Liberty is surprisingly good nick. Another fraught summer, another odd and contentious managerial change – this time former Swans manager Garry Monk getting the boot despite doing a decent job last term – and the curious case of Pep Clotet remaining to become caretaker on what seems to be a permanent basis.
Yeah, Birmingham’s owners are every bit as bad, if not worse, than our own American Hedge Funders.
Despite all of that a reshaped team is doing pretty well so far under Clotet, with seven points on the board after four games. Should they turn us over today they’ll draw level with us in the table which should provide some perspective and also serve to illustrate the challenge the Swans face today.
And let’s not forget, Monk’s Blues gave Potter’s Swans the Brum’s Rush at the Liberty last season with a one nil victory.
Clotet will no doubt revel in his return to the Liberty but one man that will be robbed of that pleasure is Jefferson Montero; no, no, the winger isn’t injured yet again, he’s simply ruled out as part of the terms of his loan to Birmingham from Swansea City. That really is a bonus because on his day the lad can cause carnage, especially at this level. We saw it for ourselves in the early part of the Potter era before the injury and the rot set in yet again during Jeff’s Swans career.
There’s still plenty to watch out for in this Birmingham side though; Lukas Jutkiewicz is a powerful presence and experienced Championship campaigner leading the line and the Blues have their own Spanish strike star in the shape of Alvaro.
The duo will head up the 3-4-1-2 formation that Clotet has been striving to install and it’s worked well at home…but failed badly away. If the Swans can up their possession quota, work the ball around and get it to Ayew and Celina out wide, with Roberts and Bidwell over-lapping, the back three of Birmingham, which includes former Chelsea loan target Jake Clarke-Salter, could find themselves in all sorts of trouble.
The three will also find it difficult to keep tabs on Borja whose ‘special move’ is to run into the box but then pull away and magically find space near the penalty spot. Add in a late cameo by the dynamic and destructive Jordon Garrick and the three at the back could find themselves in a pretty dirty Brum hole come 2pm this afternoon.
The away fans will be hoping an inspired Pep talk can banish the blues away from St Andrews – if so then a place in the top six beckons, alongside their hosts.
I’ve got every predicted result right so far…the scores have been a little off but it’s results that count. I’m hoping that trend will continue as I back the Swans for another win today! The Liberty is an absolute fortress this year, Birmingham look shaky away from home and the Swans are in great form with an ability to overcome any adversity. My caveat to all of this is if we have another slow start…that shit’s gonna catch up with us one day and we can’t keep allowing sides to dominate us over the first half in the expectation that a quiet word or three from Cooper at half time will turn things around. Give this Birmingham side any encouragement from the off and it could all go wrong in front of the cameras. I’m betting that doesn’t happen though and I’m stargazing a 2-0 Swans win!