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First Team

Opposition View: Swansea City

Ian Mitchelmore of Wales Online previews this afternoon's opponents

17 February 2019

Swansea have reached the fifth round of the FA Cup for the second year running and though, arguably, they could’ve faced tougher opposition, they’ve recorded convincing wins across the two previous rounds. Tell us a little bit about their journey in the competition so far.

The Villa away game in the third round was a bit of a tricky test, but Villa were missing a few players, they didn’t have Tammy Abraham and Jack Grealish was injured, as well. Swansea didn’t have Oli McBurnie for that game either, so Courtney Baker-Richardson played up front and ended up scoring one of the goals. It was a brilliant performance – possibly the best of the season in terms of a 90-minute performance – and in the end they won comfortably 3-0 at a pretty tough ground.

That was a really big win, then a home game against Gillingham followed, which was a very convincing 4-1. Given they beat Cardiff in the third round, I think people were expecting a tougher test but they were cruising in that one until they slipped up and let Gillingham back into the game. They ended up scoring two late goals, one of which was a rocket from Bersant Celina, and ended up winning that game comfortably in the end.

This tie is favourable for both sides, who will likely feel they can advance further, but how good do you think Swansea’s chances are going forward in the competition?

It’s an interesting one. They might see themselves as favourites given they are at home, but, in truth, there’s probably nothing to pick between them. I looked at the odds on Friday morning and the bookies are offering the same odds on both team to win, so it’s a really tight one to call and Brentford are on a good little run at the moment.

I think Swansea know how tough it’s going to be, especially when you look at the game at Griffin Park in December. Swansea cruised into a 3-0 lead and it got to the point where Brentford could have even won the game with the chances they had. I don’t think anyone is under any illusions as to how tough a game this will be, but I think Swansea will fancy themselves at home.

They’ve had a really good start at the Liberty Stadium in 2019 and haven’t lost since Boxing Day now, so they too are on a good little run. It’s a tough one to call, but I think Swansea will be confident, especially with there being no replays either, so they know they won’t have to go down to London if it ends in a draw.

Earlier in the season, former Wales Online journalist Andrew Gwilym said that if Swansea could string a run together, there was potential to finish in the “higher reaches” of the division. Now seven points outside the play-off places, does the optimism of getting there remain?

There is, yes, but it’s probably a real outside chance. Beating Millwall at the weekend was good and though the lost to Leeds in midweek, that’s probably one of the toughest games they’ll have this season. They’ve still got 14 games to go so we’re talking 42 points to play for being only seven points adrift, so if they can have a run that the likes of Bristol City have had or something like that, then there’s no reason why they can’t challenge for the top six. Personally, I think they might just miss out; they’ve got a good chance, but I think they might fall a little short.

The club has had to cope with losing a host of high-profile players last summer, therefore, how important was it that Graham Potter, in the main, kept departures to a minimum in January?

Well they lost three on Deadline Day and nobody came in and they actually nearly lost Leroy Fer and Daniel James as well, though they both ended up staying at the last minute. Part of the process of relegation has meant the club has had to sell players, Wilfried Bony being the main one because he was on wages in the region of £100,000 a week and they could barely sustain him in the Premier League, never mind in the Championship.

It’s been a tough ask, especially given that they lost a lot of players in the summer – I think they lost 13 players plus three who’d been on loan. It’s meant Graham Potter has had to bring a lot of young players through the academy: Joe Rodon, Connor Roberts, Daniel James and players like that have all had prominence through the season, largely through necessity. Fair play to them because they’ve served him really well.

It was a tough window and the fans haven’t been happy; they staged a protest before the Millwall game last week and they voiced their anger, so to speak, at the Bristol City game two weeks ago. Just hours after that game Huw Jenkins resigned as chairman, so off the pitch things aren’t as pretty as they’ve been going three or four years back, but Graham seems to be doing a pretty sturdy job, given all of the events that have gone on.

Which player has impressed you the most since the turn of the year?

I would have to say Oli McBurnie, because he’s scored eight goals in his last seven games in all competitions. He started the last two games on the bench because he’s had a bit of an illness and he actually missed the game against Villa in the third round. He’s missed a few games because this bug seems to have persisted, but when he has played, he’s still scoring goals. He’s been excellent and is top scorer at the moment by some distance, he’ll definitely play some part on Sunday, it’s just whether he can start.

How are Swansea likely to set up for this FA Cup fixture?

It’ll probably be a 4-2-3-1 formation and the predicted line-up is as follows: Mulder, Naughton, van der Hoorn, Carter-Vickers, Roberts, Grimes, Fulton, McKay, Celina, James, McBurnie.

This is the first time the two sides have met in the FA Cup since Swansea won a first-round replay in November 1971. What’s your score prediction for the game?

I do fancy Swansea to go through, though I feel it might go to extra-time or penalties. Both sides will score, so I’m going for 2-1 to Swansea.

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