Location: Wembley Arena, London, United Kingdom
Kick-off: 1600 GMT, 2130 IST
Referee: Kevin Friend
Nobody expected these two sides to get to the League Cup Final. While the number of fans who hoped that Swansea would get here are small, and those who envisioned League Two side Bradford making today evening’s trip to Wembley will be even less, thereby causing shockwaves of a much larger radius than the Swans.
It is quite obvious that both sides will go for gold in the attempt to win some silverware, writing what has been a most surprising of chapters to capture what has already been a most memorable season for both sides.
Bradford City: LDLWL
16/02/2013: AFC Wimbledon (A): 1-2, NPower League Two
12/02/2013: Wycombe Wanderers (A): 3-0, NPower League Two
09/09/2013: Gillingham FC (H), 0-1, NPower League Two
02/02/2013: Fleetwood Town (A), 2-2, NPower League Two
22/01/2013: Aston Villa (A), 1-2, Capital One Cup Semi Final Second Leg
Although their league form has been patchy at best, Bradford’s performances in the cup have defied what one sees in the four league fixtures above.
The Bantams are placed eleventh in League Two but that does little justice to the giant killings they have inflicted en route to Wembley. After upsetting League One outfit Notts County on the road and disposing of Burton Albion at home, Bradford found themselves plastered on the back page of every newspaper in England after beating Wigan at the DW Stadium 4-2 on penalties after forcing extra time.
But even Wigan were of small calibre compared to the team that would travel to Valley Parade in the quarter finals of the League Cup. The world over – with the exception of one small city in the North of England – expected Arsenal to beat Bradford.
But the hosts took the lead through Garry Thompson. Thomas Vermaelen forced an equaliser with only two minutes remaining on the clock only to see Arsenal fall on penalties to the home side to send a packed Valley Parade into rapturous cheers and a double-legged semi-final tie with Aston Vila.
Beating a morally deflated Aston Villa 3-1 at home, they broke Villa hearts by holding on to their lead despite losing 2-1 in Birmingham.
17/02/2013: Liverpool FC (A): 0-5, Barclays Premier League
9/02/2013: Queens Park Rangers (H): 4-1, Barclays Premier League
2/02/2013: West Ham United (A): 0-1, Barclays Premier League
29/01/2013: Sunderland AFC (A): 0-0, Barclays Premier League
23/01/2013: Chelsea FC (H) 0-0, Capital One Cup Semi Final Second Leg
Like Bradford, the Swans have only won one Premier League fixture in their last five games, but that will matter little when they walk out to Wembley this evening.
They began their Capital One Cup Journey against League One outfit Barnsley at the Liberty Stadium before a tricky win away at Crawley Town, where captain Garry Monk announced his return from injury with a winner in second-half stoppage time to give his side a 3-2 win, after disposing of Middlesbrough at home.
Michu then only went on to highlight his prowess in England by opening the scoring against Chelsea before Danny Graham gave the Welsh team a convincing lead to take back to the south of Britain, where they held Chelsea to a goalless draw, a game more remembered for Eden Hazard’s moment of infamy for kicking a ball boy than any real on-pitch action.
Phil Parkinson’s men have no new injuries ahead of their travels to London and have prepared for penalties.
The city as a whole is rooting for them to win. Local radio station Pulse Radio have provided them with a book signed by well wishers from the city as a form of inspiration ahead of their showpiece event.
The Bantams have no injury concerns ahead of their final and coach Parkinson has a full squad to choose from, having expressed his willingness to take advantage of his side’s physical ability at set pieces to win the game.
Squad (from): John McLaughlin (GK), Stephen Darby, James Meredith, Ricky Ravenhill, Andrew Davies, Luke Oliver, Kyel Reid, James Hanson, Andy Gray, Garry Thompson, Matt Duke (GK), Will Atkinson, Ryan Dickson, Carl McHugh, Ryan Connell, Gary Jones (c), Adam Baker, Zavon Hines, Nahki Wells, Michael Nelson, Rory McArdle, Nathan Doyle, Blair Turgott, Curtis Good, Scott Brown, Forrayah Bass, Connor Erangey, Louie Swain, Nathan Curtis, Callum Hepworth, Dean Overson, Steve Williams
Probable Starting XI: Duke; Darby, Meredith, McArdle, McHugh; Jones, Thompson, Atkinson, Doyle; Hanson, Wells
Described by his vice captain Ashley Williams as cool and laid-back, Michael Laudrup has drilled his side thoroughly for this game against Bradford.
He has two injury concerns ahead of his trip to Wembley, being unable to call on the services of Wales left-back Neil Taylor and Spaniard Chico Flores. That defensive duo aside, Laudrup has a full complement of players.
Squad (from); Michel Vorm (GK), Kyle Bartley, Alan Tate, Ashley Williams, Leon Britton, Michu, Pablo Hernandez, Nathan Dyer, David Cornell (GK), Roland Lamah, Wayne Routledge, Garry Monk (c), Itay Shechter, Luke Moore, Jonathan de Guzman, Dwight Tiendalli, Darnel Situ, Ki Sung Yueng, Angel Rangel, Gerhard Tremmel, Kemy Augustien, Mark Gower, Lee Lucas, Ben Davies, Josh Sheehan, Henry Jones, James Loveridge, Scott Tancock, Curtis March, Rory Donelly
Probable Starting XI: Vorm; Rangel, Williams, Bartley, Tiendalli; Ki, De Guzman, Britton; Hernandez, Routledge, Michu
Bradford City: Matt Duke
Having won the battle from testicular cancer four years ago, Duke says he has already won everything he wanted to in life. But a League Cup medal is always nice.
To win that, he will have to be on top of his game. Having pulled off several world-class saves against Arsenal, Wigan and Aston Villa earlier in the competition, he has one last bastion to storm before Bradford triumph.
Swansea City: Michu
Facing off against Jones will be eighteen goal man Miguel Michu with two very vital goals in the competition.
There is no doubt that he will be the spearhead of the Swansea attacking lineup today and his pace, skill both on and off the ball and trickery will be vital if Swansea are to achieve cup glory this season.
Both sides have a chance to make history. Rochdale were the last League Two team to travel to Wembley in a Cup Final, and Bradford can go one ahead and top that.
I am a romantic at heart, and am rooting for the Bantams to rewrite history be beating their fourth consecutive Premier League team.
Bradford City 1-1 Swansea City (Bradford to win on penalties)Published 24 Feb 2013, 15:32 IST