Weekend Football preview
League Cup Final
Swansea v Bradford is the most improbable of cup finals but this doesn’t mean both sides should be patronised with too much ‘romance of the cup’ style build up in what should be a competitive and entertaining game.
Bradford sit 71 places below Swansea in the football league, but they’ve already knocked out three Premier League sides en route to the final.
Bradford’s ability to rise to the occasion has been demonstrated and with this likely to be most of their players first and last major cup final, there’s no bigger motivation.
Phil Parkinson will certainly look to target Swansea at set pieces as they’ve conceded more this season than any other Premier League side.
Away from the cup, Bradford’s season hasn’t been all sunshine and rainbows; the Bantams have only collected 5 points from seven league games in 2013.
Conversely, Swansea’s league form has sparkled as they currently sit eighth, two-thirds through only their second Premier League season
Their passing style is likely to cause Bradford problems, as is their real desire to win this competition unlike otherwise occupied Arsenal and Aston Villa that Bradford previously dispatched.
The League cup would be Swansea’s first major honour and the way they’ve negotiated their way back up the tiers of English football over the last ten years is the paragon of underdog desire.
The final is therefore as ‘romantic’ for Swansea as it is for Bradford, which is why Swansea should have enough to run out winners.
Expect a spirited effort from Bradford however, and if it goes right down to the wire, it’s worth remembering that Bradford have won their last nine penalty shootouts – 18/1 for a Bradford penalty shootout victory!
Man City v Chelsea
In what many would of hoped or expected to be a title defining game in the midst of a flurry of Champions League ties, City v Chelsea has fallen rather flat.
The two respective moneybags of English football are stuttering.
City have been under-performing after last season’s theatrical title dénouement: out of the Champions League in the group stages, without Balo-unchained and with Joe Hart full of errors, they’ve all but conceded the league to Man Utd as they sit 12 points behind.
After the glories of Munich, Chelsea have taken even more of a downward trajectory.
Undoubtedly a team in transition, they were embarrassingly the first defending Champions to fall at the group stage of the Champions League.
This has been followed by defeat in the World Club Championships, League Cup to Swansea, being held 1-1 away at Brentford in the FA Cup and narrowly scraping through to the last 16 of the Europa League last night with a 1-1 draw against Sparta Prague.
The discontent surrounding Rafa Benitez has been unrelenting in what has fast become a season to forget on and off the field for Chelsea.
Despite their failings, both City and Chelsea have produced fleeting moments of brilliance this season.
Chelsea’s 4-2 victory away at Spurs demonstrates they have the capacity to perform in big games. Equally City clinically dispatched Arsenal 2-0 at the Emirates.
However, I expect the game to follow a similar narrative as the 0-0 draw (12/1) at Stamford Bridge earlier in the season, full steam ahead United.
There could be a potential upset on the cards for those punters getting involved with the Basque derby tonight.
Real Sociedad are flying in La Liga, currently sitting 6th just five points off a Champions League position.
Athletic Bilbao are having a torrid season by comparison, on a downward spiral after losing the Europa League final last May, they languish in 14th with a top half finish their only realistic aim between now and the end of the season.
Bilbao have lost their previous two matches, but their home record against Real Sociedad is strong, having won 7 of their last 8 home matches against their rivals.
This has made Bilbao slight favourites at 11/8 and our tip to boost your accumulator.