Sport reporter Rob King previews Sunday’s derby match between Swansea City and Cardiff City; Liberty Stadium (1.15pm kick-off)
I know we said, in spring last year, that it was the biggest ever South Wales derby; but this is the biggest ever South Wales derby!
This time around, both Swansea and Cardiff still have realistic chances of making the Championship’s top two, with the prize of automatic promotion.
Back in April, it was really all about the battle for a place in the top six to secure a play-off spot.
It would leave them five points adrift of the Swans – in all probability even more points behind Norwich and QPR – although they would still have that one match in hand.
And you have to say if either side look more likely to lose that side would be Cardiff.
Even though they’ve taken a respectable eight points from a tough run of games against Leeds, Norwich, Watford and Reading, they’ve been far from consistent and convincing during that spell.
They appeared particularly out of sorts for long periods of Tuesday’s dramatically-drawn game against Reading, where the surprising decision to leave Michael Chopra out of the starting line-up left the side playing a strange formation which simply did not seem to suit the players on the pitch.
That does point to Cardiff’s problem, in a sense. The arrival of Aaron Ramsey and Jay Emmanuel-Thomas to feature alongside the likes of Craig Bellamy, Jay Bothroyd, Peter Whittingham, Chris Burke, Chopra and the rest means they can field massively talented individuals, but the feeling persists that Swansea simply function better as a team.
The Swans showed the crazy FA Cup defeat by Leyton Orient was indeed simply one of those footballing oddities by bouncing back in real style to win at Bristol City in midweek.
Their defence seems as solid as ever – they’re good enough to mark Alan Tait as well as the opposition attackers!
No, to be fair Mr Tait has played a major part in what must be the best defensive unit in the division.
You can see them frustrating Cardiff’s gifted forwards but can you really see the Bluebirds back-four keeping a clean sheet, especially with Scott Sinclair and Nathan Dyer attacking the flanks, where the capital city side have looked slightly less than impregnable?
There is also the impression – shared by both sets of supporters, to some extent – that the current crop of Swansea players seem to want it more in these derby encounters. The away fans will be hoping that with hometown hero Bellamy in their ranks, the Bluebirds find the passion to dig deep on Sunday.
Swansea, of course, outplayed Cardiff on their own pitch back in November, and some would say the side managed by Dave Jones have never been quite the same since.
The bookmakers have Brendan Rodgers and his men slight favourites to do the double over their great rivals – something which has never, ever happened since the clubs first played in the same division in the old Southern League, Division Two, way back in the 1912/1913 season.
If offered, Cardiff would probably take the draw now. Swansea wouldn’t. I think that says it all.