Barclays Premier League Preview: Swansea City vs Manchester City

Venue: Liberty Stadium, Swansea, Wales
Kickoff: 13:30 BST; 18:00 IST
Manchester City travel to the Liberty Stadium on Sunday, to take on Swansea City in the penultimate gameweek of the 2014/15 Barclays Premier League season.It really is a significant weekend for Manuel Pellegrini‘s men, who could seal automatic qualification into next season’s UEFA Champions League if they win against Swansea on Sunday.

The hosts, though, are in a fine fettle of their own and won’t be easy to beat at all. They ran City ragged when the sides met at the Etihad Stadium last November and deserved a better result than the one ( a 1-2 defeat) they got in the end.

Both sides’ managers – Pellegrini and Gary Monk – insist on playing an attractive brand of football, and I am sure that viewers from all over the world, as well as the supporters of both these football clubs, will be treated to a great game of football this Sunday afternoon.

Read on… as we compare the strengths and weaknesses of both the sides, and what they have been doing lately.

Swansea City

Monk’s side is sitting at eighth place (with 56 points) on the league table and could achieve UEFA Europa League qualification if they win their remaining games and other results work in their favor; a seventh place finish (provided Arsenal win the FA Cup against Aston Villa on May 30th) could be enough to compete in Europe for the Swans.

Their 14/15 campaign has been slightly up and down, and the Swans have found it difficult to strike consistency. They have managed to string three wins together only on two occasions in the Premier League this season, and it is an area that they would like to rectify this Sunday.

However, this has nonetheless been a landmark season in their history, accruing their highest ever points tally of 56, which is a whopping nine points more than their previous best of 47.

The Welsh side come into this game on the back of three consecutive victories, the last of which came against the Gunners at the Emirates Stadium five days back.

Ki Sung-yueng has enjoyed a dream season at the Liberty and is the leading goal scorer with eight goals in 31 league appearances.

Ki will definitely be one of the players to watch out for tomorrow, as he is a genuine box-to-box midfielder who would want to show his worth against the 2013/14 English champions.

Gylfi Sigurdsson is another player, who has enjoyed a very good season after making a permanent move from Tottenham Hotspur last summer.

He has made the third-most number of assists (10) in the Premier League this season and will be crucial to his side’s chances of winning against Manchester City.

While the Swans have played with a lot of virtuosity in attack this season, their backline has not been water-tight and conceded 44 goals so far in the Premier League.

Lukasz Fabianski, another one of Monk’s marquee signings from last summer, has been called into action many times this season and he played a crucial role in his side enjoying the kind of season they have thus far.

The Pole has made 115 saves in 35 league appearances this season, averaging 3.29 saves, which is the most for a Premier League goalkeeper, per game.

Monk prefers to deploy his side in the archetype 4-3-3 system that enables them to play with great fluidity and creativity in midfield, as well as on the flanks, where the likes of Jefferson Montero, Wayne Routledge and Nathan Dyer can be absolutely lethal with their pace and movement.

Going into Sunday’s home clash against City, it is paramount that Swansea City don’t concede goals and rely on their attackers to outshone their counterparts.

Someone like Jonjo Shelvey, with his work rate and ability to play instinctively, will have to come good if Swansea are to cause problems for their illustrious opponents defensively and offensively.

Don’t be surprised if Swansea City sit deep and play on the counterattack, which has been the go-to tactic for most Premier League outfits when playing against the league’s highest scorers.

City

Sunday’s visitors have won their last four league games on the trot, but it would take a lot out of them to beat an in-form Swansea side this Sunday lunch time.

It has been a much-needed turnaround for the Cityzens who, before their last four victories, were not assured of a top four spot and have had to work extremely hard to overtake Arsenal and Manchester United into second place.

Sergio Aguero’s goal scoring form has been particularly pleasing to see, with the Argentine scoring six goals during his side’s current 4-game winning run, taking his tally to 25 league goals for this campaign and putting himself in pole position to win the Golden Boot.

David Silva is back to being consistent after a tough two-month period that saw him create 29 chances and score two goals – which is considerably low for the kind of high standards he sets for himself – from March 1st until the Manchester derby defeat at Old Trafford

The likes of Fernandinho, Aleksandar Kolarov, Eliaquim Mangala, and Pablo Zabaleta, to name a few, have come good of late and been crucial to their team’s recent success.

City have performed well as a unit in recent games, with a majority of their players coming back to form and making their presence felt.

Pellegrini too, deserves credit for conjuring up this turnaround in form after the defeat to the Red Devils, who have since won only 25% of their games.

The Chilean manager has resorted to playing just Aguero up top, and that decision has paid rich dividends for him and City, who have consequently been tough to breakdown by the likes of West Ham United, Villains, Spurs, and Queens Park Rangers (QPR).

The City boss has also played with an unchanged starting XI for his side’s last two games, but I would be very surprised if he refrains from calling back the fit-again stalwarts – Yaya Toure and Vincent Kompany – who were on the bench for their side’s last game against the Rangers.

Even if this duo does come back into the starting XI, it will be interesting to see who they come in place of. Mangala and Martin Demichelis have largely been good as a defensive partnership, and it would be harsh on either of them to be dropped; Toure’s selection could be more straightforward, although it would make sense if Pellegrini brings the Ivorian in place of Frank Lampard and not bench one of the two boisterous Brazilian midfielders.

Another potential selection dilemma for Pellegrini is that of Wilfried Bony, who hasn’t managed to start any of his side’s last three games since regaining fitness.

It could be an emotional moment for him on his return to the Liberty Stadium as a City player, and this aspect will add a bit more spice to this intriguing Premier League encounter.

Tactically, I expect Pellegrini to persevere with the 4-2-3-1 system, albeit with at least 2-3 changes in personnel.

Going into tomorrow’s game, City will be relatively confident of beating Swansea City, but will have to bring their A-game to the table.

The hosts have got pacey players up their sleeve and, as aforementioned, will look to play on the counterattack. It is important for the visitors to score that first goal, which always helps them play with verve and composure thereafter.

Defensively, they can be sure to face a few questions from the Swansea frontline comprising of Bafetimbi Gomis, Montero and Routledge, most probably.

City, though, will like playing against Swansea, as it will be more of a competitive game and not cagey.

Final Thought

Expect this to be a goal fest and a closely contested battle between two aggressive football teams. Both teams will fancy their chances of winning, which is the reason why the spectators could be in for a treat. City will start as favorites, but Swansea will be reasonably confident of posing defensive problems for the visitors.

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