Tottenham Hotspur head to Wales this weekend for an important road match against Swansea City, a match that could be pivotal as Spurs try and continue their push back into contention for a Champions League place. Swansea is in their third consecutive year in the Premier League, and while they have struggled a bit this season comparatively, they are firmly ensconced in the middle of the table and don't appear to be in any danger of relegation. They're also dangerous at The Liberty Stadium, and Spurs will need to do well to get a result.
Ahead of this weekend's match, I was able to ask some questions of Chris Carra, founder of the award-winning Swansea City blog Forza Swansea.
Uncle Menno: Swansea's in uncharted territory now, having lasted three seasons in the EPL and playing as though they're going to be a fixture in the table for a long time. This after a parade of managers in recent years -- from Roberto Martinez to Paulo Sousa to Brendan Rodgers to Michael Laudrup. What's the secret of Swansea's success?
Chris Carra: Basically our chairman is a guy who knows what's best for the club. Despite a quick turnover of managers, Huw Jenkins only brings in a manager he knows will implement the Swansea style, which - as everyone now knows - is possession-based, quick passing football.
UM: Swansea, much like Spurs, have been hit by the injury bug lately. Perhaps the biggest loss is Michu. Tactically, it seems from my outsider's perspective that Swansea loves to play through Michu, and rightfully so. With your dynamic Spaniard injured, what sort of tactical adjustments will Swansea need to make in the short term to stay competitive?
CC: With Michu out, Bony is our biggest hope for goals. As we've seen recently the best way to make Bony score is to feed the ball to him. Whereas Michu liked it at his feet, Bony is a big guy and a few long balls into the box are a great way to set him up for a goal. While our tactics - passing, and lots of it - stay the same, we need to mix it up a little by chucking it into the box a bit more.
UM: Alex Pozuelo has been a promising young player for Swansea this season, and like Michu seems to be one of those bargain signings that Swansea's becoming known for. Talk a little about Pozuelo, his game and his prospects at Swansea -- do you think he can make an real impact?
CC: I like Pozuelo as do many Swansea City fans. He's quick, has great feet and isn't afraid to run at defenders. He's made his biggest impact in the Europa League, but he's played just as much in the Premier League - in fact he has so far made the most appearances out of any Swans player this season. He's not the complete article yet, and I'm still not sure if he's better on the wing or in a more central role, but he has great potential.
UM: Who has been the player at Swansea who has impressed and/or surprised you the most this season?
CC: Jonjo Shelvey has been brilliant. I had a feeling he'd impress, although he wasn't warmly received by all the Swansea City fans. He seemed a bit of a 'what's the point?' buy last summer. However he has shown great commitment, effort and a few goals. Shelvey is enjoyable to watch and knows a good pass, although he does need to grow up a little bit - he can be quite erratic and hot-headed at times. One of my bloggers wrote the rules to the Jonjo Shelvey Drinking Game at Christmas which sums up Shelvey's personality perfectly!
UM: Fans of the EPL love rivalries, and the North London and Tyne-Wear derbies are highly anticipated events every season, made more so because they happen every year. How is it having the South Wales derby back, and in the Premier League no less? How would you consider the derby games with Cardiff as fans in relation to some of the better known derbies?
CC: The South Wales Derby is one of the biggest rivalry games around. I don't think the media outside of Wales made as much of it as they could! Swansea and Cardiff fans can't stand each other and having both clubs in the Premier League is great as we can see the rivalry on one of the biggest footballing stages in the world. Swansea lost the first derby this season - mainly thanks to the players not giving enough heart. The Cardiff players wanted it more and it showed. Hopefully it will be different at the Liberty Stadium the next time around because it was embarrassing.
UM: Why will Swansea City be relegated? Please be thorough.
CC: Why will they be relegated... because they are in the Europa League! Being in Europe is costing the squad players through injury and fatigue and it's showing in the Premier League performances - they can't win games! It's been a tough winter with all the difficult fixtures falling within a week or two of each other, but the games we drew against teams like West Ham and Hull may prove costly later in the season. (For the record, I can't see Swansea being relegated this season - we have the quality to survive).
UM: Finally, let's have some predictions: a score prediction for this weekend's match, and a prediction on where Swansea and Tottenham will finish in the table by season's end.
CC: I'm going for a Swansea win, 1-0! It could be a draw but Swans need a win more than you guys. As for the end of the season, I guess Spurs will finish in the top four or maybe fifth. Meanwhile Swansea will finish around 10th (with a Europa League win under their belts!)
Many, many thanks to Chris Carra for taking the time to chat with me ahead of this weekend's match. Chris' Swansea blog, Forza Swansea, was winner of the Best Sports Blog category in the 2012 Wales Blog Awards, and it's well worth your time to visit the site to learn more about Swansea City. Also, you can follow Chris on Twitter (@forzaswansea).
- Thursday Morning Hoddle Of Coffee: Tottenham Hotspur News And Links For January 15, 2014
- Croatian teenage starlet apparently interests Chelsea, Liverpool and Spurs
- Belgian international's agent says Tottenham are interested in buying him
- Napoli sporting director heading to London for talks with Spurs?
- Premier League Projections, Week 21: Zero Sum