Preview | Swansea City v Cardiff City
After an absence of over five years, the South Wales derby makes its return when Swansea City host Cardiff City at a sold-out Liberty Stadium this afternoon (12pm).
Having last met in February 2014 – when the Swans ran out 3-0 winners – there has been a long wait for both sets of supporters and there is no doubting how eagerly-anticipated Sunday’s game has been.
The two sides are looking to buck recent trends. The Swans are without a win in their last four home games, losing three.
Cardiff, meanwhile, are yet to win away from home this season.
Steve Cooper and Neil Warnock have spoken of the important of calm heads amongst the predictable helter skelter nature of a derby, and that will be particularly crucial given so few players in either squad have previous South Wales derby experience.
For the Swans, Wayne Routledge, Nathan Dyer and Declan John know what this fixture is all about, while Cardiff’s Jazz Richards played in the fixture during his time with Swansea.
With bragging rights at stake, it promises to be an intriguing 108th instalment of a rivalry stretching back over a century on what is a special day in the Welsh sporting calendar.
Swansea City are again sweating on the fitness of Joe Rodon after the defender picked up another knock to his ankle against Brentford.
The 22-year-old had been a doubt for the defeat to the Bees after being forced off at Barnsley, but was passed fit for the midweek clash.
However, the new injury means he is again doubtful.
Aldo Kalulu is the only definite absentee for the Swans, as he recovers from an ankle problem of his own.
Steve Cooper: “We know how important it is, we are representing the city, the community and everything the football club stands for and we have to use that as motivation.
“It’s not something to be fearful of. If there is pressure, it is good pressure and we should thrive on that.
“But our focus now, being aware of all that, is to use it as massive motivation to do whatever it takes to win on Sunday.
““To do that we need to focus on performance and what it takes to do that.
“It’s a sell-out and the fans will be right behind us, we know that.
“If derbies go to form, there will probably be some hurly-burly early on. So, we have to manage the occasion, we need to play with calm heads and not make rash decisions.”
Neil Warnock: “Swansea have had a really good start. I’ve always thought our first 15 to 16 games would be difficult. After Sunday we’ll have played eight away games and six at home.
“They’ve had a great start and it’s not easy for a young manager to come in and perform as he has.
“He’s done really well. Not just the way he plays but the way he comes over, a young manager caring about his players.
“It was a brave appointment at the time but he seems to have fitted. They have more points than us so it’s a better job.”
Remember the last time?
The Swans got Garry Monk's reign as head coach off to the best possible start as they claimed derby day revenge on Cardiff City with a 3-0 win at the Liberty Stadium in February 2014.
After a goalless first half, the Swans were quick out of the blocks after the restart as Pablo Hernandez came off the bench to set up Wayne Routledge, who found the bottom corner in the 47th minute.
It was all one-way traffic from then on as the scorer turned provider when Routledge crossed for Nathan Dyer, and the winger dived in to nod home in the 78th minute.
Things got even better for the home side as Wilfried Bony powerfully headed his 17th goal of the season with four minutes to go following Hernandez's delivery from a free-kick.
It sealed victory and made amends for the Swans defeat at Cardiff City Stadium earlier in the season.
0 – Cardiff City have yet to win an away fixture this season, while Swansea have lost three of their last four at home.
23 – Swansea are bidding to record back-to-back league wins over Cardiff for the first time in 23 years, having last done so in 1996.