There is little more I can do to hype up Monday. It's a massive game for a team that can do little wrong at the moment!
Swansea City seem destined for the top tier. They've come a long way over the season and they deserve to play with the best. They're liked by all (apart from Cardiff) and play attractive football, with plenty of spirit and they've got to this point by not spending huge amounts on prima donnas and people who don't do anything (apart from Luke Moore...).
I'm very confident for victory on Monday, though I do realise the Swans are in no way invincible.
Despite the fast, possession based passing game, which is clearly working for them and has seen them compared, rightly so, to Barcelona, there are shortcomings. If they were perfect they'd have been automatically promoted weeks ago.
I guess the major problem in the past season was sometimes creating goals from the many, many opportunities they'd make. Thankfully, towards the later stages, with the appearance of Fabio Borini and re-emergence of Stephan Dobbie as a first team player, these opportunities have been converted into goals – the same goes from set pieces, again thanks to Borini and Dobbie's free-kick abilities and Sinclair's accuracy from the spot.
The only real issue Swansea have to deal with, is keeping composed. We've seen it many times: an early goal against them can lead to panic and hurried play, which piles the mistakes on heavier. To succeed they must ensure that the first ten minutes is solid. If it's 0-0 after ten minutes, with everyone getting a touch of the ball, it's Swansea's game to win.
Providing that there isn't a howling error, like an own goal (Williams... Tate...) or a red card (Tate...), I think Swansea have the skill, the will and the legs to win it. We know the pitch size is an advantage to the likes of Dyer and Sinclair, and Swansea will utilise it fully.
The team should pick itself, as usual, with the only uncertainty in the middle three. I think it's safe to say that Leon Britton should start as his performance in the last few games has been outstanding. Adds solidity to the back, very creative and, as we saw last week, can score goals! He's there for me.
Dobbie is next on my list, sitting in that attacking midfield role. We know he scores goals and we know he creates for others. He can take a mean free kick too, and has already won at Wembley with Blackpool last season, so the Scot's experience will be an added bonus.
The final midfield spot, in my opinion, should go to Tommy Butler. Just joking. Give it to Mark Gower, who has shown such an improvement this season, with some solid passing and goals to match. It was tough between Pratley and Gower as Pratley is always a goal threat, but he is a great impact sub to have I guess, when legs get tired. Joe Allen wouldn't make my starting line up – too many mistakes for me, and can get too heated – something the occasion doesn't really need more of. Another fine player for the bench though.
So, with that in mind, my starting line-up for Monday would be:
What a team to put out, compared to one that we might have seen this time last year: containing Kuqi, Pintado and a chunky Lee Trundle.
Despite this being a final, where extra time and penalties would be an acceptable way to win, I feel Swansea will win it in normal time. My prediction is Swansea to win 2-1. Couldn't say who the scorers will be... have to fancy maybe a last goal for Borini, who may be leaving, and Sinclair is always a danger. However, with this current team, anyone is capable of scoring.
I could now move on to the 'what ifs', such as what if Swansea do get to the Premier League? What if they remain in the Championship? Who will leave? But I need topics to blog about for the long, dry summer months, so I'll leave it at that for now.
Credit to Reading, who I haven't yet mentioned. They put Cardiff to bed beautifully last week, and will be a threat all game. Although it would've created travelling issues (and mass violence and arrests), I probably would've preferred to face Cardiff in the final as they would not have been as threatening as Reading.
I'm leaving Swansea about 7:30am on Monday, on a bus with 16 others (split crowd of die-hard, season ticket holders and those who just want a piss-up in London).
Talking about that, I have noticed that, as expected, many people - those who would usually tell me to shut up about football - are clambering to jump on the Swansea City bandwagon. I have mixed feelings about this; in a way it's great that so many will get behind the boys on Monday, but where were these when we played Coventry City last year? Watching X Factor and other bollocks, that's where. Hopefully the Swans will give a good enough performance on Monday to create some more true supporters. It's great to support the team, but do so for every game, not just the big ones.
Check back next week for my reaction, good or bad, to the final and my thoughts on the future. I just want Monday to be over now, so we know one way or the other!
Best of luck to Brendan and his men. It's all come down to this one game and it is yours to win!