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Sunday, 24 February 2013

Bradford Vs Swansea

Bradford will assess the fitness of defender Rory McArdle, who returned to training this week after recovering from an ankle injury.

The Bantams will be without striker Andy Gray, who is ineligible because he played for Leeds earlier in the competition.

Swansea defender Chico Flores is ruled out with an ankle problem, and will be replaced by Garry Monk or Kyle Bartley.

Swans boss Michael Laudrup says back-up goalkeeper Gerhard Tremmel will start.

Bradford manager Phil Parkinson admits the team's remarkable cup run, in which over £1m is thought to have been generated, has provided a welcome distraction from the objectives set out at the start of the season.

"All along, the league has been our priority. I cannot hide away from that," he said.

"But we are in the final at Wembley and have a chance of getting into Europe.

"So, I can honestly say now, if we had the choice of two things, it would have to be winning the cup.

"We are a League Two team. We have created history by getting this far. It would be truly amazing if we could pull it off."

MATCH PREVIEW

The fans' final, the fairytale final - whatever you want to call it, there's no doubt that the League Cup has come up trumps again in giving us a showpiece ending that's a little bit out of the ordinary.

Will it be a fantastic final though? With such a gulf in league standings between the teams there's always the danger of a one-sided affair, but I think Bradford have proved enough times in their cup run that they can raise their game to take on any opponent - and go the distance.

Four of their seven games in the competition have gone to extra-time, with two famously won on penalties against Wigan and Arsenal. Their incredible record of nine successive shoot-out wins will certainly have Swansea fans feeling nervous if the scores are level with nearly two hours played.

There's a school of thought that the Bantams' best chance of winning in normal or extra-time is via set-pieces, and Aston Villa would testify to the threat Phil Parkinson's team pose there. It'll be interesting to see how the homework Swansea will have done manifests itself at the first corner or wide free-kick they concede.

What with the plunge down the divisions, two spells in administration, and the giant-killing run to the final, Bradford City's is a superb story, but we must remember how special Swansea City's tale is too.

When Bradford were in the Premier League at the turn of the millennium, the Swans were bouncing between the bottom two divisions, and only avoided a drop to non-league status with a final-day win over Hull just 10 years ago. That game will always be much more important in the history of a club that has reached its first major Wembley final in its centenary year.

Leon Britton and Alan Tate are still at Swansea having played in the 4-2 win against Hull at the old Vetch Field, and might just cast their minds back to that fateful day as they walk around Wembley in their cup final suits.

Yes, Swansea have come a very long way in a short time to become a much-admired Premier League team. They, arguably more than any other top-flight side, need no reminding of the need to avoid complacency.

Here's to that fantastic final then. A capital one, the sponsors would say.

MATCH FACTS

Head-to-head

This will be the first match between Bradford and Swansea in a major cup competition.

The Swans are unbeaten in their last four league encounters with the Bantams, all of which came in League One. However, three of those matches were drawn.

Bradford's last win against Swansea was a 5-1 victory at Valley Parade in the third tier on 30 March 1996.

Bradford City

The Bantams are the second side from the fourth tier of English football to reach the League Cup final. Rochdale also managed the feat in 1962, losing to Division Two Norwich over two legs, although that was during the League Cup's infancy, when many of England's elite clubs declined to enter the competition.

Victory would see Bradford become the sixth club from outside the top flight to win the competition, following in the footsteps of Norwich (second tier, 1962), QPR (third tier, 1967), Swindon (third tier, 1969), Aston Villa (second tier, 1975) and Sheffield Wednesday (second tier, 1991).

Bradford have kept clean sheets in only two of their last 15 League Cup ties.

They have won nine consecutive penalty shootouts - an English record.

Swansea City

The Swans have reached the final of the League Cup for the first time in their history. Prior to this season they had never gone beyond the fourth round of the competition.

Michael Laudrup's men have won twice in eight league and cup games since booking their place in the final.

Swansea's most recent defeat against League Two opposition was a 3-1 loss to Shrewsbury in the second round of the League Cup last season.

They have kept clean sheets in their last three League Cup matches. They have gone 284 minutes since they last conceded in the competition. 

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