As the title suggests, this is a brief preview of Swansea's friendly matches between both Celtic and Real Betis.
Admittedly, these matches don't impact the club much in the long run, but they have their importance. It'll be the first time many fans will see the likes of new recruits Leroy Lita and Wayne Routledge, as well as the other summer signings such as Danny Graham, Steven Caulker and Jose Moreira, if they didn't attend the friendlies in Neath, Port Talbot and Afan Lido. It might also be one of the only matches in the Liberty some fans will see if they weren't lucky enough to get a season-ticket / don't want to queue over night next season.
The three friendlies I just mentioned, as well as the two abroad (including a loss to the UAE Olympics team) were nice warm-ups for the team and more of a chance to stretch their legs, practice playing with new team mates and an opportunity for the reserves to play what will probably be their only games in a Swans shirt this season.
The games against Celtic and Real Betis are the final two opportunities for Brendan Rodgers to try out anything new and look towards what starting eleven he'll field against Man City in just under two weeks time. However, these are big name teams so there is a little more attention and hope on winning these two than there was at, say, Neath.
Swansea first play Scottish giants Celtic on Wednesday (7:00pm) at the Liberty Stadium, in the first game there since that euphoric night against Nottingham Forest back in May.
Oddly enough, Celtic have already begun their 2011/12 SPL season with a 2-0 win against Hibernian but their new season took an immediate break to play a series of friendlies. Within the last week they have lost 2-0 against Wolves and another 2-0 loss against Inter Milan so will be looking for a good win against a Premier League side, especially a Welsh one after their efforts, along with Rangers', to break into the Premier League were unsuccessful.
In reality Swansea have nothing to lose, though Cardiff may think differently. I heard an amusing theory a few days ago: Cardiff lost 1-0 to Celtic in a recent friendly, so, should Swansea lose by more than a goal to Celtic, do Cardiff have one-up on the Swans? I don't see it being much of an issue. Cardiff fans have been uncharacteristically quiet recently, and I don't think their friendly successes (or lack of) will be much to cheer about. They now have bigger problems than Swansea.
Moving onto the match against Real Betis (Saturday 6th, 3:00pm) and we encounter a team I actually don't know too much about.
Last season they won the Spanish Segunda División, achieving promotion to La Liga, so Betis are effectively in the same boat as Swansea – a team gaining promotion and wanting to build confidence against a top tier side from another country. Swansea will get to sample some high quality European football, while Real Betis will get good practise for playing Barcelona if Swansea continue their quick passing, high possession game!
Real Betis will not be an easy team to beat and will be up for showing Swansea why they were champions last season. Recently the Spanish side hammered Havant and Waterlooville 7-0 and, while the H&W Hawks are not really at the same standard as the Swans, it shows that Betis will want to grab as many as they can from what may be a relatively new Swansea side.
So on to my predictions, where I foresee a calm 1-1 draw against Celtic, before a more energetic 2-1 win for Swansea against Real Betis.
Whatever happens, I'm sure these will be fun games to watch and interesting for fans to see how Swansea cope against teams they may not encounter again for a while (maybe not until Swansea leap into the Champions League... give it a few years though)!