south wales derby match preview

As derby games go there are not many bigger, historic or outright bizarre than the South Wales derby between Cardiff and Swansea. A friendly rivalry for many years at first turned into one of the most heated matches in football.

As welsh clubs playing in the English football league the early derby matches were played with fans mixing and some friendly banter. As the years went on on football hooliganism escalated so did the hatred between the two sets of fans.

A Brief History

Trouble at football games in the UK had been on the rise throughout the 70’s and 80’s and Cardiff and Swansea games were no different. Many football fans will be familiar with Swansea’s Swim Away gesture to Cardiff fans. This all stems from an incident at a match in Swansea in 1988.

As this was pre smart phones and viral videos accounts of the incident vary wildly but after a 2-0 Cardiff win around 30 Cardiff supporters were chased into the water. Police moved the Swansea fans away and dripping wet Cardiff supporters emerged from the waters. The swim away gesture has been used by many ex Swansea players whilst playing against Cardiff.

Swansea player Darren Pratley mocks Cardiff Fans

This season’s first meeting will take place at the Cardiff City Stadium, but without any supporters. It will be the first without any fans at the ground, but for many years away supporters were banned from this fixture.

After years of rising trouble at the derby fixture the FAW finally had enough in 1993, banning away supporters for four years. It came to a head after a match at Ninian Park in 1993, the game has been dubbed the “Battle of Ninian Park”. Swansea fans came to Ninian Park and ripped out seats and threw them at Cardiff supporters. Cardiff supporters responded by invading the pitch to attack the Swansea fans. Former Football Intelligence officer Simon Chivers described it as the worst violence I’ve ever seen.” There were many arrests and several police officers and supporters were injured in one of the darkest days for Welsh football. For the first time in the UK away supporters were banned from attending until 1997.

Thankfully scenes like this are no longer the norm at Cardiff/Swansea games. When fans were allowed to attend away games all fixtures between the sides have been “bubble” games.

Across the years no side has ever won two league meetings in a season. The clubs have won two games in a season, but due to playing in the Welsh Cup, the league double has never been done.

Recent Form

Cardiff have turned their form around winning four straight games. They have scored ten and conceded just one in that run. They have climbed up to 9th place and are just four points from the play-off places.

Swansea, meanwhile, have won three, drawn two and lost one of their last six games. They are in 4th place and only a point behind 2nd placed Bournemouth.

Last season saw a goalless draw at Cardiff while Swansea won 1-0 in their home game. Prior to last season the last derby games came in the Premier League.

Swansea enjoyed a 3-0 win at the Liberty Stadium in Garry Monk’s first game as manager. It was the Bluebirds who won the first ever Premier League game 1-0 with former Swansea player Steven Caulker scoring the only goal.

Cardiff have the edge overall with 44 wins to Swansea’s 36, with 28 draws.

Team News

Harry Wilson is a major doubt for the game with an arm injury picked up during City’s win at Stoke on Tuesday. Osei-Tutu and Tomlin are both still unavailable. With Wilson likely to miss this game Junior Hoilett will be the most likely to step in in.

Morgan Gibbs-White is still out for Swansea but Steve Copper will have no new injury concerns.

Managers Thoughts

Cardiff Manager Neil Harris:

It’s a huge game. Bragging rights are at stake. It’s a massive game. I was watching some footage earlier of the game back in January. The stadium was packed, atmosphere was electric. Both clubs will miss the fans. It’s a great fixture in the football calendar, one of the biggest games of the season in the Championship.

Fans will be missed but it doesn’t take away the importance of it.

We know the importance to the fan base.

Harris was asked if he understood the importance of this game for the Cardiff fans,

Course I do. It’s never lost on me.

In my playing career, they are the best games to play in.

I know the importance to the fan base and that will certainly be mentioned in the changing room. It already has been.

It’s not a joy for people in lockdown in the lead up to Christmas and they can’t watch their team. There’s been a hardship and we have an opportunity to put smiles on faces.

Swansea manager Steve Cooper also spoke about the fans:

“It will be different in terms of the game and atmosphere,

“They were electric atmospheres last season, as anyone who was there will tell you, so we can’t shy away from it, it is different.

“That’s why you cannot compare with previous seasons or previous games.

“But is a game that means an awful lot to supporters, it’s one we really want to win and one we want to really commit to and attack.

“It is for the supporters. I want them to see a team working hard and giving their best because football is so important to so many people.

“It will be a perfect chance to give a bit back and we will be committing to that.”

Key Players

While Kieffer Moore is gaining plaudits for his recent form part of this has been down to the introduction of Mark Harris. Harris has been a revelation since his introduction to the starting line which has seen Cardiff win the last four. Harris has scored one himself but gives defenders more to think about allowing more space for Moore. The Swansea born striker could be the key to unlocking Swansea’s defence.

Andre Ayew has picked up seven goals this season for Swansea. Swansea have only lost one game this season when Ayew has scored. The striker is a big game player and will relish this fixture.

Prediction; Cardiff ? v ? Swansea

This derby is unpredictable at the best of times. Playing behind closed doors will change the dynamic like never before in this fixture. Its likely to be a close game with just a goal in it.

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