The Liberty Stadium hosts the match-up between two of the English Premier League’s in-form teams as Swansea City take on Norwich City this Saturday afternoon.
Both clubs could have been forgiven for suffering the dreaded ‘Second Season Syndrome’ having both been elevated to the top flight last year. They exceeded all expectations and predictions by comfortably avoiding the relegation dogfight. However, this campaign would always put both clubs under more scrutiny as they try to establish themselves as perennial Premier League participants.
The challenge for both clubs was made more difficult by the necessity to appoint new managers during the summer. The Swans chose legendary Dane, Michael Laudrup to replace Brendan Rodgers, while the Canaries took former Newcastle United and Birmingham City boss, Chris Hughton as the successor to Paul Lambert.
From day one, Swansea have impressed with their brand of flowing, attacking football. Laudrup has taken them one step further down the evolutionary path started by Roberto Martinez, continued by Paulo Sousa and honed by Brendan Rodgers.
Laudrup, an experienced player and coach at the highest level, has an air of calm and intelligence that has transmitted to his players. This can be seen on the field as they have turned the brand of possession football they were renowned for last season into a highly effective weapon to gain impressive results. The evidence of this can be seen in convincing victories over QPR, Newcastle, West Brom and last weekend’s historic win against Arsenal.
The key to Swansea’s ability to turn possession dominance into tangible results has been to get more end product out of players such as Nathan Dyer and Wayne Routledge in attack, and the key addition of Michu, probably the signing of the summer bar none. The Swans now have a cutting edge which means they can now finish teams off either by keeping the ball for long spells or by hitting them hard and fast with rapier-like counter attacks.
They go into this game unbeaten in 6 in League football, in the quarter final of the Capital One Cup, and on a confidence high after last week’s incredible victory at the Emirates which sees them only 3 points away from a top 4 berth and genuine contenders to qualify for European football next season.
Saturday’s opposition Norwich, had an awful opening to the campaign as they struggled to shrug off the hangover of a somewhat turbulent summer, as Lambert, the man who guided the Canaries to two successive promotions, left for Aston Villa, and skipper Grant Holt voiced his determination to follow his old boss out of the Carrow Road exit door.
Chris Hughton, returning to the Premier League for the first time since his unfortunate dismissal from Newcastle in December 2010, must have wondered what he’d walked into as his new side were given severe beatings by Fulham, Liverpool and Chelsea in the opening weeks. But in recent games the defence has showed much more solidity and with the impressive combination of Bradley Johnson and Alexander Tettey giving the back four added protection. Added to this, Grant Holt is looking like his old self again while the wide men Anthony Pilkington and Robert Snodgrass have proved to be constant thorns in their opponents’ sides.
Norwich’s unbeaten run has now stretched to eight games which has included the impressive wins at home to Arsenal and Manchester United, a well-earned draw at Everton and last weekend’s victory against struggling Sunderland.
Both managers will go into this game believing they can take victory and both will be keen to continue on their respective good runs and be loathed to come away from this game with nothing. It is very likely to be a cagey affair with goalscoring chances at a premium. If Norwich can shackle the impressive Michu then they could go back to East Anglia with a share of the spoils.
Prediction: Swansea City 1-1 Norwich City686344