Although this Sunday’s Capital One Cup Final does not feature two of British football’s purported heavyweights, it still makes for a very interesting clash, given that several Goliaths have been toppled by one David more doughty than the other.
Here are five key head to head confrontations that could govern the way the game goes.
1) Matt Duke vs Michu
Former Hull City goalkeeper Matt Duke is living life to the fullest now, having overcome testicular cancer a few years ago.
He will surely need to give a 110% to keep out one of the Premier League’s most effective strikers this season. A dark horse alongside the likes of Robin van Persie and Luis Suarez, the Spaniard, whose full name is Miguel Perez Costa, has found the back of the net 18 times in all competitions this season, with two of those coming in the five League Cup games he has featured in.
But Duke can take comfort from his assured performances against Aston Villa, Wigan Athletic and Arsenal en route to Wembley.
2) Stephen Darby vs Pablo Hernandez
24-year-old Stephen Darby won the FA Youth Cup and the English Premier Reserve League with Liverpool. Tomorrow presents him with a chance to show how he has utilised his footballing education.
Unlucky not to get into the side because of the depth in numbers that Liverpool had when he was with the Reds, he is first choice for League Two side Bradford and will be yearning to show what Liverpool missed out on as he goes head to head with another skilled Spaniard in the form of Pablo Hernandez.
One of new manager Michael Laudrup’s new imports from Spain this season, Hernandez has been in fine form for the Swans, contributing with two goals and some direct, deadly running from the flanks, either of which he can comfortably play on.
3) Zavon Hines vs Angel Rangel
I know I am making a habit of naming Spaniards, but I can’t help it. Rangel is another player who has been consistent for the Liberty Stadium side this season.
A solid right back with a willingness to get forward, Rangel is not cut from the same cloth as his fellow Hispanics with a style of play that is more fortitude than flair.
He will be up against a player with proven – but nascent – Premier League experience in the form of Zavon Hines. Capable of scoring late, decisive winners and with energy and pace to burn, former West Ham and Burnley winger Hines will have his work cut out if he is to help influence his side’s proceedings.
4) James Hanson vs Ashley Williams
How far has young James Hanson come, from stacking crates in a supermarket while playing non-league football as a teenager to walking onto one of world football’s most hallowed grounds in what comes to signify one of the greatest giant killings in the history of English football.
With a crucial goal against Aston Villa in the second leg of the League Cup semi-final at Villa Park to his name, Hanson will be looking to repeat his man-of-the-match performance against the Birmingham side after receiving pain-killing injections to his bruised toe just fifteen minutes before taking to the pitch against the Villans.
But he will up against Wales captain Ashley Williams. The rock among the rearguard at the Liberty Stadium, the club vice captain has been his team’s Mr. Dependable at the back and is one of the main players responsible for Swansea’s impressive performances this season and Hanson will have to play out of his skin to ensure his team lift silverware on Sunday.
5) Gary Jones vs Ki Sung Yueng
Probably playing one of his last seasons as a professional football, Wembley Stadium is most likely 35-year-old Bradford captain Jones’ final opportunity to lift silverware.
And what better place to do it than Wembley in front of nearly one hundred thousand football fans? Sure to start the game and orchestrate play in midfield, the man he will be up against is South Korea international Ki Sung Yueng.
Since his arrival from Celtic last summer, Ki has nailed down for himself a permanent place in the Swans’ starting XI and it is quite likely he will be walking out onto the Wembley grass on Sunday night. His job will be to keep the ball from the wily Jones and hope he has enough of it to help out his team mates further up the pitch or gets it back enough to assist those who stand guard behind him.Published 24 Feb 2013, 00:47 IST