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Match Preview – Bradford City vs Swansea City

This seasons League Cup final has served up a contest very few, if any, could have ever predicted.

There is no doubt the success story of this seasons competition, if not entire season, is Bradford City.  Manager Phil Parkinson has built himself a reputation in the game on working wonders on a shoestring budget and Bradford have undoubtedly needed such a man at the helm in recent times.

The amount of money spent assembling the finalists from Valley Parade has been well publicised, but it is also the way in which Bradford have reached Wembley that has impressed so many.  Bradford get the ball down and play, even in tight defensive situations.  This style is personified by captain Gary Jones, an experienced campaigner in the lower leagues who demonstrates a calmness in possession that is clearly infectious amongst his much young teammates.

As well as Jones, Bradford also boast a front pairing of Nahki Wells and James Hanson as key men for the final.  Wells and Hanson have terrorised Premier League defences throughout the competition, Wells with his pace and trickery, Hanson with his physical presence and aerial ability and both can boast key goals at key times on route to Wembley.

If Bradford stand a chance in the final, keeper Matt Duke will need to perform to the same standard he has throughout Bradford’s 7 game run to Sunday’s final.  Duke has performed heroically in the competition, making endless saves and carving out a reputation as a penalty saving specialist in shootout wins over Wigan and Arsenal.

It is fair to say that Swansea City are having a superb season.  Many expected the Swans to suffer the dreaded ‘Second Season Syndrome’ following the summer departure of manager Brendan Rodgers for Liverpool.  Crucially, Swansea appointed a manager tailor made to continue Rodgers good work in Michael Laudrup.  Laudrup has built on last season’s passing philosophy and made Swansea a far more ruthless opponent, particularly in front of goal.

Imperative to Swansea’s ruthlessness in front of goal is the signing of Spaniard Michu in the summer, arguably the signing of the season for just £2m from Rayo Vallecano.  Combining a typically Spanish technique with a killer eye for goal, Michu is a man the Bradford back line will certainly be fearful of heading into the final.

A vital cog in the wheel that gets the ball to Michu, Leon Britton’s career has come full circle since making his debut for Swansea back in 2002.  Britton played in the infamous match at the old ‘Vetch Field’ where defeat to Hull City would have meant relegation from the Football League.  Since that day in May 2003, Britton has walked every mile in Swansea’s pilgrimage to the top table of English football with his form leading to calls in some quarters to be rewarded with an International call up.

On paper, Premier League Swansea are firm favourites over their League 2 counterparts to win the first cup final of the season on Sunday.  However, Bradford have spoilt more than one party on their way to Wembley and it would come as a surprise to very few if they had one more ‘gate crashing’ in them.  Either way, the 2013 League Cup final will be a unique occasion, unlikely to be replicated for many years.  It will involve two teams outside of British football’s power-houses, two teams with equally enthralling ‘journey’s in recent seasons and two teams that are set to put on a final that the whole country and sit back and enjoy.

Aaron Sharp