Tuesday 28 January 2014

It's in our hands! (Part 2): The next six games

In Part 1 Matt gave us his opinions on why Swansea City were wallowing in the relegation zone and what was needed to get us out of the rut.

He now runs us through the crucial next six games and gives us his predictions on how many points we can (and should!) get from each. Take it away Matt...


By Matthew Jacob

With players beginning to return from injury we now face the biggest run of games since promotion was secured. It's time for Swansea to rise and fight back.

There are 16 league games left to play, each one very significant. The next six, however, have the potential to make or break this season:

FULHAM - HOME (Tues, Jan 28th, 7:45pm) 
The perfect opportunity to get on the front foot in this sequence of games. Fulham were held to a draw on Sunday at Sheffield United and a replay is no good for them. When Berbatov doesn't play Fulham don't play, and the Bulgarian has been off form of late.

From a Swansea perspective De Guzman and Rangel should return to give the squad a timely refresher and with Bony firing I think we'll have too much for them. Our comeback against Birmingham was also a timely confidence boost.

Prediction: WIN

WEST HAM - AWAY (Sat, Feb 1st, 12:45pm)
As the Six Nations kicks off the Swans travel to East London to clash with Sam Allardyce's West Ham. The Hammers have been on the receiving end of some terrible results of late (although they have faced Manchester City's goal machines twice in that period).

Swansea lost at Upton Park last season thanks to a goal from Andy Carroll and they held us to a credible draw in October last year at the Liberty. Allardyce has added to his squad at a crucial period including the classy Italian pair Antonio Nocerino and Marco Borriello from Serie A. It'll be a tough place to go - I'd take a draw but I think they'll have the edge.

Prediction: LOSE

CARDIFF CITY - HOME (Sat, Feb 8th, 5:30pm) 
Boy to we owe them one. Malky Mackay finally made way for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and the Norwegian wasted no time in proclaiming his desire to finish above Swansea and that they were the capital and therefore should be bigger than Swansea. Solskjaer hasn't impressed the Jack Army with his comments but he continues to say the things Cardiff fans want to hear, and he's making great strides in the transfer market signing a clutch of players from his former club Molde and making bold moves for Zaha and Fabio from Manchester United. He has also secured the services of former Swansea target Kenwynne Jones.

This game needs no introduction. I believe man for man we're a better side than them. It will take more grit and determination than was shown in the first derby, but I think a partisan Liberty Stadium crowd can see us to victory this time.

Prediction: WIN

STOKE CITY - AWAY (Wed, Feb 12th, 7:45pm)
To the Britannia, a ground where Swansea have previously struggled to cope with the aerial bombardment that Tony Pulis championed in the Potteries for a number of years - a style of play often criticised, yet it saw Stoke into the Europa League and has helped them become an established Premier League club.

However Stoke have a very different appearance now in the shape of Mark Hughes, who has made efforts to alter the style in favour of more passing, attractive play, which may have contributed to their league position. Having never been asked to play that way, Stoke have struggled to make the Britannia the fortress it has been in previous seasons. I expect us to go there and be positive, hopefully with an almost fit squad, and come away with a draw.

Prediction: DRAW

LIVERPOOL - AWAY (Sun, Feb 23rd, 1:30pm)
It will take a special effort to prise something away from Anfield as the business end of the season approaches, with the red men chasing a top four spot and Suarez and co playing some spectacular free flowing football. Swansea were demolished 5-0 at Anfield before the Capital One Cup final, so it's fair to say we owe them one.

Were it not for our own mistakes in the home fixture we could well have taken the spoils then and I expect us to put in a much better performance than last year. However I also expect us to get nothing from the game, but I am a natural pessimist. Perhaps Swansea will surprise me once again. Of the next six games this is the 'free' if you will, one where we will not be expected to get a result and many will have written off already.

Prediction: LOSE

CRYSTAL PALACE - HOME (Sun, March 2nd, 4:30pm) 
The last game of the next six that I've earmarked as crucial. I have a hunch we'll know what we have to do between this point and the end of the season. A few months ago I was saying we'd be the club to relegate Palace yet Tony Pulis, to his immense credit, has turned them around. However, struggling to add to a weak squad, they may slip into the bottom three again by the time we meet. I'm confident we'll put them to the sword.

Prediction: WIN

There you have it. 10 points from the next 15 on offer would see us up to 31 points and, with our bottom half rivals facing tough opposition in the coming games, this would make a massive difference.

Our FA Cup tie with Everton comes the weekend of February 15th and there's also the small matter of a Europa League tie in the middle of those games with Napoli coming to the Liberty Stadium on February 20th (not to mention the return leg in Italy on February 27th), but the league must be our focus now.

I still believe it's in our hands - win our games and we'll pull clear. We've got a good squad and a strong identity, so let's get behind the boys. Back the new arrivals (whoever they are), lift the players and let's make the Liberty a fortress again, together!

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