Swansea have one foot in the final of the Capital One Cup. They just need to keep things tight when they host Chelsea in this second leg of their semi-final in order to reach their first major final (7.45pm GMT, Wednesday, live on Sky Sports).
The Swans performed well in defeating Chelsea 2-0 at Stamford Bridge in the first leg, defending stoutly and maintaining a threat on the counter attack. Well taken goals from Michu and Danny Graham gave them two away goals and a healthy advantage to defend on Wednesday.
Swansea’s home record this season is strong, with just two defeats in 15 matches at the Liberty Stadium in all competitions and only one by more than two goals – the margin Chelsea would need to triumph by to overcome their first leg deficit.
Michael Laudrup’s men were in fine form at home on Saturday, recording a 3-1 win over Stoke City thanks to no small part to a delightful double from Jonathan de Guzman.
The Dutch midfielder was one of a number of canny signings made by the club in the summer to cover the departures of Joe Allen, Glyfi Sigurdsson and Scott Sinclair, key components of the side who finished 11th in their debut Premier League season.
Laudrup, too, has proved to be a more than competent replacement for Brendan Rodgers, who left to join Liverpool at the end of last season, impressing with his shrewd dealings in the transfer market – including 16-goal Michu for £2 million – and tactical acumen.
Swansea are in ninth position in the Premier League table with 33 points from eight wins, nine draws and six defeats, just a point behind West Bromwich Albion, Liverpool and Arsenal ahead of them.
While the Swans have been most impressive at home, they have displayed an ability to soak up pressure on their travels, often whilst grabbing the goal or two sufficient to secure three points. They have won away at Arsenal and Liverpool, and only lost by a single goal in defeats at Manchester City and Tottenham Hotspur.
Those are statistics that will have Laudrup’s opposite number Rafael Benitez concerned ahead of the second leg. His side have often toiled to break down teams who come only to defend, which is likely to be the approach Swansea will take on Wednesday, despite enjoying home advantage.
Chelsea have failed to score on five occasions in all competitions since Benitez took charge in mid-November, including, of course, the first leg of the semi-final, in which Swansea did a good job of stifling Chelsea’s attacks and preventing them clear scoring opportunities.
Fernando Torres put in an abject performance in that encounter and is unlikely to get the nod on Wednesday, with Demba Ba favourite to start after being rested for the majority of Chelsea’s 2-1 win over Arsenal on Sunday.
Ba has scored three times since joining from Newcastle at the start of January and is a livelier and most robust striker than Torres. His movement and hold up play helps create space for his team-mates to work in, as evidenced by the fact that Chelsea have scored ten times in the three matches he has started to date.
Benitez elected to start Eden Hazard, Juan Mata and Oscar together in the attacking midfield line of three against Arsenal on Sunday and was rewarded with some superb, incisive football in the first half, as goals from Mata and a penalty from Frank Lampard saw Chelsea cruise into the break with a two goal advantage.
The trio do not always provide requisite defensive cover – indeed, Arsenal’s second half fight back was in part facilitated by their ability to get their full-backs forward unchecked. But in situations such as Wednesday’s second leg when Chelsea desperately need goals their collective inventiveness could well make the difference.
Despite the win over Arsenal, Chelsea are still 11 points behind league leaders Manchester United at the sharp end of the Premier League table. Benitez has conceded that his side have little chance of closing that gap sufficiently to mount a serious title challenge.
Swansea v Chelsea Betting Tips
Cup competitions offer Chelsea’s most realistic chance of silverware this season, so they will throw everything they have at overturning their first leg deficit on Wednesday.
Swansea, though, have been well-organised and resilient in defence so far this season and we believe they are capable of keeping the score to a margin that will see them progress to the final.