Killing swans is a crime. Unless your a royal. But why would they? Well, for £90 million and the chance to play in the Premier League, you’d do near anything. It’s the Championship Play Off Final between Swansea City and Reading this coming Monday afternoon, with the prize of Premier League football going to the victor. But that begs the question, who will be promoted? Thisisfutbol looks at the crucial areas in this most crucial of games.
Swans have wings, but they don’t flap around. They’re direct, skillfull and fast, with the pacey pairing of Nathan Dyer and Scott Sinclair reeking havoc in the division all season. Reading full backs Ian Harte and Andy Griffin will be susceptible to the speed of the duo, but have experience and know how to tactically cope.
That being said, the Royals have the ability to out flank Swansea themselves. Jobi McAnuff, so dangerous in the semi-final against Cardiff, will be likely to start out left if either Hal Robson-Kanu or Jimmi Kebe don’t make it. Though if either does, then Swansea full backs Angel Rangel and Alan Tate will have their work cut out on that large Wembley pitch.
Franco Borini is the primary prong of the Swans attack, with Stephen Dobbie tucking in behind him. The intelligence of their movement and their technical skill are utilised brilliantly in the fluid, passing attack of Swansea, making it difficult to shackle. Reading rocks Matt Mills and Zurab Khizanishvili coped well with masers Chopra, Bothroyd and Bellamy in the semi, so will be confident of being able to handle them at close quarters.
Reading pair Noel Hunt and Shane Long, the latter was the man of the match in the semi-final second leg, offer a constant outlet as well as supreme work rate. It’ll be interesting to see whether they look to close down Ashley Williams and prevent Swansea from playing out from the back, or whether they have Hunt drop and prevent it getting to Leon Britton. The attacking threat they pose is well known, with Long the form striker in the division. Both small in stature but huge in terms of ability, sprightliness and spring.
STUCK IN THE MIDDLE
Joe Allen and Leon Britton are the current nuts and bolts in the Swansea engine room, motorising the mesmerising pass-and-move that the Jack Army are renowned for. Neither is the most physically imposing, though that does not prevent them from ”getting stuck in”. Both capable of scoring goals, being the playmaker and the more defensive, it’ll interesting whether Reading boss Brian McDermott decides to press or stand off the duo.
Opposed are Mikele Leigertwood and Jem Karacen. The Turk Karacen is quite similar to Allen and Britton, in that he is small, nimble, very good on the ball and always busy in the centre of the midfield. Leigertwood, the loan Ranger, is an imposing destroyer who will look to break up the Swansea weaving. With Stephen Dobbie and Franco Borini allowed to roam and drop deep, it’ll be interesting whether Reading the defence and midfield follow, or stand off the movement.
Almost inevitably, Swansea will likely dominate the possession of the ball, despite the match being played at a neutral venue. Maintaining the ball will be key to their attacking and defending, for it will allow them chance to rest during the game. Reading though can cope well with onslaughts, as they showed in the openings to both legs of their semi-final with Cardiff. Quick counter attacks will be the order of the day for Reading, who will be heartened by how Nottingham Forest got in behind the Swans rearguard with pace.
A difficult game to call, despite Swansea being the favourites to win. If it’s going to be won in 90 minutes, then the Swans would have my money. However, the game could easily go to extra-time, with which my money would switch allegiance and Reading would be my favourites. Penalties? Money stays in my wallet.
Swansea 3 – 1 Reading, after 90 minutes.
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