Swansea v Newcastle United
Saturday 2 March 3pm
The Swansea manager , Michael Laudrup, has accepted that, “There could be a hangover after Wembley”.
The Swans have celebrated the magnificent achievement of winning the League Cup after not many years ago looking as though they were going out of the league AND out of existence. Their story, and Bradford’s as well, shows the power of the cups is still there if you don’t get carried away by the brainwashing of today.
We all know how we would have celebrated if Newcastle United had won a cup, in fact most of would still be partying right through to this match at Swansea.
What Saturday does surely give Newcastle though is a great chance of a win against a team who have really impressed this season.
The Swansea players had a post-match party at the Wembley Hilton (we can but dream!) and then were given a couple of days off, followed by the traditional open top bus procession on Tuesday with a civic reception afterwards.
The Welsh club’s Ashley Williams has said that, “we have had three days to prepare for Newcastle United, so there are no excuses”.
Of course in their last league match they rested pretty much their whole team and were hammered by Liverpool, helped by the fact that with the cushion of 37 points already in the league they could concentrate on Wembley.
On the negative side for Newcastle is the fact that while Laudrup has rotated his squad at times, now he has only the Premier League to worry about he is expected to play his first eleven every match.
Moving away from what is happening in the opposition’s minds, Newcastle are showing a new found resilience and ability to score goals.
Since the January recruitment, Newcastle have scored ten goals in four Premier League matches and came back to win from losing positions in two of them. Something that hadn’t happened a single time in over two years!
The fact that Coloccini, Krul and also Ben Arfa, are all certain to miss, is a blow. However, what would have been a crisis only five or six weeks ago, is now looking a manageable situation thanks to the strengthening of the squad.
Rob Elliot had a decent match as Tim Krul’s replacement and when Mapou replaced Coloccini during that Southampton match, it certainly didn’t look as though there was any weakening of the team.
So basically, it looks as though Alan Pardew has the luxury of fielding the same team that started against Southampton, with the exception of Mapou for Colo, and no reason why a similar outcome shouldn’t be targeted.
To have the likes of Cisse, Gouffran, Sissoko and Cabaye all looking capable of scoring is a massive reassurance for a team who at one time were so reliant on either Ba or Cisse having a scoring run. In addition, going forward both Santon and Debuchy are giving a massive extra element to Newcastle’s attacking play which was shown with an assist each against Southampton.
For the opposition, Michu is clearly looking an inspirational signing, while Nathan Dyer always looks handy and somehow Laudrup is getting any amount more out of Wayne Routledge than we ever saw.
A bit like the Southampton match I think it has all the hallmarks of a really good game of football and a clean sheet would equal three points as I just can’t see Newcastle not scoring at least a goal or two in their present mood.