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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.

Midweek Championship round up

Reading missed the chance to extend their lead at the top to six points after a second straight defeat. Second placed Swansea drew with Brentford meaning Reading still have a three point lead. Bristol City and Cardiff bonce back from weekend losses with wins. Wycombe make it two wins in two and Prestons impressive away form continues as they make it four wins from five.

Tuesdays Action

Swansea traveled to Brentford, the side that beat them in last seasons play-offs.

The Swans started brightly with Kyle Naughton and Andre Ayew testing the Bees Keeper David Raya. Brentford, however, took the lead in the 32nd minute as Ivan Toney turned in Mathias Jensens cross from close range. Swansea leveled through Ayew, who turned in Matt Grimes’ cross inside the six yard box. Swansea sit second after an impressive start whilst last years play-off finalists sit in tenth.

Swansea boss Steve Cooper thought his side deserved to win the game telling the BBC:

“We thought that we were comfortable in the game and Freddie (Woodman) didn’t have a save to make all game. Their keeper made two world class saves in the early stages.

“You wish after a performance like that coming here that it would have been three points instead of one”.

Thomas Frank told BBC Radio London:

“We didn’t play particularly well in the second half, but neither did Swansea. There was a lot of back and forth, but with their goal, we need to defend better”.

Bristol City, meanwhile, are back to winning ways after five games without one, coming from behind at Huddersfield Town. Josh Koroma gave the home side the lead two minutes from the break.

City turned the game around in the second half with goals from Jay Dasilva and Jamie Paterson. Huddersfield sit 15th in the table whilst Bristol City sit outside the play-off places on goal difference. This was a good time for Bristol to regain some form as they head to south Wales on Friday for the Severnside Derby.

Their host’s on Friday also got a win on Tuesday as Cardiff responded to Neil Harris’ criticism of them after Saturday loss to QPR. Neil Harris switched to a 4-4-2 starting with Kieffer Moore and Robert Glatzel. Junior Hoilett gave the Bluebirds the lead after four minutes skillfully bringing down Joe Bennett’s cross. Joe Ralls added a second just before the break from the spot after Harry Wilson was brought down. Wilson added a third on 77 minutes with a stunning left footed strike from outside the box. Cardiff move to 13th and Barnsley are 18th.

Sheffield Wednesday ended Bournemouth’s unbeaten start with a 1-0 victory at Hillsborough. The goal came from the spot after Josh Windass skipped around Begovic but was brought down by Steve Cook. Cook also saw a red card for the challenge. Barry Bannan calmly put the spot kick home. Wednesday held on to win despite Kadeem Harris being sent off for a rash tackle in stoppage time.

Norwich City were unable to break Millwall’s defence at Carrow Road as Millwall get a vital away point.

Przemysław Płacheta saw his effort just before half time smash the upright. Emiliano Buendia saw his effort saved by Millwall keeper Bialkowski. Norwich boss Daniel Farke told BBC Radio Norfolk:

“We created an unbelievable amount of chances with lots of possession close to the opponent’s box. We had 27 chances today. Can’t complain too much, the only thing we can criticise is our responsibility to finish”.

Elsewhere, Middlesbrough made it nine unbeaten as they drew at Blackburn 0-0.

Blackburn boss Tony Mowbray told BBC Radio Lancashire:

“Let’s hope there are not many games like that the rest of the season. It wasn’t nice to watch, I didn’t enjoy it. Lets take the point put it in the bank and move on”.

Neil Warnock told BBC Tees:

“The only regret was not getting three points but that’s the Championship, if you don’t win you’ve got to make sure you come away with a point”.

Wednesday’s Action

Another away win for Preston as they beat leaders Reading by three goals. Despite a missed penalty from Daniel Johnson two goals in four minutes from Scott Sinclair and Emil Riis followed by a Brad Potts goal in stoppage time gave Preston their fourth away win.

A high ball into the box was clearly chested down by Sinclair and slotted into the goal despite Reading appeals for offside. A quick counter saw Preston double their lead Emil Riis reaching a long ball and sliding his shot under the advancing keeper. Another quick break from Preston saw Tom Barkhuizen get behind Readings defence. His squared ball into the box was met by Potts who put the ball into the top corner.

Reading head coach Veljko Paunovic said after the game:

“I’m not disappointed but I feel the pain. When you lose a game, you have to absorb it. That’s what I’ve told the players.

You have to bounce back and convert the pain into a positive energy for the next game”.

Preston boss Alex Neil said:

“This seems to be quite common for us on the road. We’ve been excellent on the road”.

A five goal thriller at Vicarage Road as Watford beat Stoke City. Stoke took the lead after 2 minutes, Steven Fletcher finishing a training ground corner.

Watford equalised after 28 minutes Tom Cleverley finishing off a lovely piece of passing play from Watford. Cleverley’s shot came off the bar and the ground to be collected by the keeper, after a brief wait the ref gave the goal after receiving a signal form the Goal Decision System.

Joao Pedro’s gave the lead to Watford after Sarr was brought down by Stoke Keeper Angus Gunn. Nick Powell leveled for Stoke with a right footed strike from the edge of the box on 81 minutes. But Watford weren’t done as Sarr found the net three minutes into added time.

Wycombe made it three unbeaten with a 2-1 win at St Andrews. Despite going behind to a Marc Roberts goal just before the break. A late second half fight back with Scott Kashket leveling the game on 75 minutes and an own goal in injury time from Kristian Pedersen. Wycombe after severn points in three games are not just a point of Coventry and getting out of the relegation zone.

Coventry lost out on a point to a 96 minute Lyle Taylor penalty as they lost to Forest 2-1. Scott Mckenna had given Forest the lead before Callum O’Hare squared things up. This was Forests first win in five and they sit 20th in the table. Derby lost again at Pride Park as QPR scored a late winner for the second game running. After a 91 minute winner on Saturday, Macauley Bonne’s late header gave QPR another three points. Luton picked up a good win away at Rotherham 1-0 with a goal from James Collins.

Another busy weekend of Championship action as Friday sees the Serevenside Derby between Cardiff City and Bristol City. Leaders Reading host Stoke in Saturdays early kick off, whilst Norwich v Swansea should be a cracker of a game.

Brentford meet Fulham in 170 million pound encounter

Following 48 Championship matches, for West London rivals Brentford and Fulham it comes down to one 90-minute game to determine the success or failure of their season. 

For Fulham and Scott Parker it is a chance to bounce straight back up, while for Brentford it is an opportunity for the Bees to play in the top-flight for the first time in 70 years.

Brentford’s season

This season was always going to be an emotional one for the Bees as it was going to be the final one at Griffin Park, which has been their home for 116 years.

Indeed, this campaign has certainly proved to be an eventful one for Tom Frank’s side. The first half of the season started off slowly but they did manage to secure an impressive 7-0 win over Luton Town at the end of November and they did also beat their play-off final opponents at Griffin Park back in December 1-0 thanks to a Bryan Mbeumo goal.

It was the Bee’s Championship restart form that ultimately proved the catalyst for their promotion charge.  They once again managed to beat Fulham, this time 2-0 thanks to their Algerian superstar, Said Benrahma. They followed that result up with an impressive 1-0 win over Slavin Bilic’s West Brom, thanks to a goal from their striker, Ollie Watkins, who has managed 26 goals in all competitions this campaign and will be much sort after by Premier League clubs if Brentford do not go up this time around.

A further five victories in a row over Reading, Wigan, Charlton, Derby and Preston followed, which sparked talk not just a play-off spot but of automatic promotion.  Tom Frank’s side, however, would suffer defeat in their final two matches against Stoke City and Barnsley, which ultimately ensured that they had to make do with a third place finish and a spot in the Play-Offs.

The Play-Offs for the Bee’s fans certainly strike both excitement and trepidation into their hearts.

One hard luck story in particular comes to mind for the West-London club took place seven years ago when they missed a late penalty against Doncaster Rovers in the 90thminute before Rovers would then break upfield to score and go up as League One Champions.  Further heartbreak in the League One Play-off final at Wembley was to follow as Brentford lost 2-1 against Yeovil Town.

It has been, however, a case of so far so good for Tom Frank’s side as they managed to overcome Steve Cooper’s Swansea City team.  Having lost the first leg 1-0 thanks to an Andre Ayew goal, the second leg and last game at Griffin Park saw a dramatic turnaround inspired by Ollie Watkins, who levelled the tie in the 11thminute of the match.

A header from Emiliano Marcondes followed which gave the London side the lead on the night and on aggregate before a volley from Mbeumo gave the hosts a two-goal cushion.  On loan Rhian Brewster managed to pull a goal back for the Welsh side 12 minutes from time to produce a grand stand finish but the visitors ultimately were unable to find that all important goal to take the game to extra time.

Fulham’s Season

For manager Scott Parker’s first season in charge of Fulham the task was simple, bounce straight back up.  Easier said that done, the Cottagers, however, set about this in impressive fashion.  Although they started off with an opening day 1-0 loss to Barnsley, they managed to produce strong league performances particularly in November when they won four and lost just once.

The lockdown, however, did not come at a good time for the London club as they had just come off two straight wins against promotion rivals Swansea City and Preston and secured a 1-1 draw at Bristol City.

Indeed, the restart subsequently witnessed the Cottagers loose against Brentford and Leeds United before recapturing some of their form from November by winning against the likes of Nottingham Forest and Cardiff City and they also emerged on the right end of a 5-3 score line against Sheffield Wednesday thanks to two goals each from Neekaens Kebano and top scorer Aleksandar Mitrovic.

That result ensured that they would feature in the play-offs and following a 1-1 draw with Wigan they knew they would be up against Welsh side Cardiff City in the Semi-finals.

The Cottagers secured a crucial 2-0 victory in the first leg thanks to a superb individual effort from midfielder Josh Onomah and just before the end Kebano curled in a wonderful free kick.

The second-leg at Craven Cottage saw Fulham ultimately progress to the final at Wembley despite a 2-1 loss and additionally they had to do it without their main man, Mitrovic.  The Welsh side got off to the dream start and they were able to demonstrate their impressive ability from set pieces. A powerful header from Curtis Nelson made it 1-0 before just 30 seconds later Kebano was able to convert an Anthony Knockaert cross.

Cardiff’s Lee Tomlin restored his side’s advantage on the night just after half time and ensured a tense 40 minutes for The Whites. Parker’s team, however, were able to hold out to ensure that they made it to Wembley for the second time in three years.

Indeed, the Whites certainly have fond recent memories when it comes to the Championship play-offs having beat Aston Villa in the 2018 play-off final 1-0 thanks to a goal from their captain, Tom Cairney.

Team news

Brentford have no fresh injury concerns ahead of the Play-Off Final.

Fulham’s top scorer Aleksandar Mitrovic has managed to overcome a hamstring strain, which kept him out of the semi-final victory over Cardiff. While Harry Arter and Ivan Cavaleiro will also be available meaning that Parker will have a fully fit squad to choose from.

How to watch

The match will be shown live on Sky Sports Main Event and Sky Sports Football and is scheduled for a 7:45pm kick-off on Tuesday 4th August. Coverage begins from 7pm.  The match will take place behind closed doors at Wembley Stadium.

Prediction

Only four and half miles separate the sides and only goal difference divided them in the regular season. Tom Frank’s Bees, however, have held the edge over Fulham in their two league encounters this campaign and fancy them to get the job done at Wembley.

 Score Prediction: Brentford 2-1 Fulham