15:00 KO (BST); Saturday 14th October; Liberty Stadium (Swansea, Wales)
In the midst of rebuilding the team, Paul Clement has improved Swansea slowly but surely in recent weeks. A run of poor results has seen them sink to 18th position and, while it’s still far too early to be thinking about the relegation spots, it’s definitely a position which requires results as well as improvements. With the fewest number of shots on target (11) in the Premiership, their biggest problem seems glaringly obvious.
Although the good start from Huddersfield was always unlikely to continue too far into the season, their slide in form is still a cause for concern. With the loss of Steve Mounie to injury, Huddersfield lack a cutting edge which has led them to a run of three consecutive games without a goal. This is a run that extends to nine from the last fourteen games in all competitions which suggests it’s a deeper problem facing David Wagner’s side. With success in football largely being built on confidence, a win for either team could provide something far more important than the three points at stake.
LAST TIME OUT
West Ham United 1 – 0 SWANSEA CITY (Premiership)
Once again, Paul Clement set Swansea up with a solid base to the team and it was a tactic which almost gained them a point in London. The Swans ably weathered an early storm from the Hammers and grew into the game until a late substitution by Slaven Bilic produced an even later goal that snatched all three points for the home team. While there were plenty of positives for Clement to take out of the game, a lack of points and a lack of goals underlines another disappointing result.
Having controlled much of the game, Swansea failed to find a spark of creativity to open up the Hammers defence. This wasn’t helped by Wilfried Bony needing to leave the field at half-time, his long-range shot being the closest the Swans came to opening the scoring in the first 45 minutes. With Renato Sanches having his best game in a Swansea shirt yet, the three-pronged attack in front of him now needs to find a way to improve or it will be a long season for the club’s fans.
HUDDERSFIELD TOWN 0 – 4 Tottenham (Premiership)
Having built most of their early season success on the back of having a strong defence, the Terriers were comprehensively dismantled by a sleek Tottenham side. It was a return to the type of display which became regular in the Championship last season as Huddersfield were susceptible to being caught on the break when their players attempted to press the opposition in higher areas of the pitch.
Elias Kachunga should perhaps have been awarded a penalty with the score at 2-0. However, Spurs were rampant and had put themselves three goals up after 23 minutes with each goal coming in the course of a four minute period. Laurent Depoitre also hit the bar just before half-time but Tottenham professionally closed the game down after the break and left Huddersfield largely chasing shadows.
The Terriers may have lost this match heavily but the players refused to drop their heads. Pushing forwards in the latter stages when the game was unofficially over as a contest, Wagner was given plenty to think about but had at least some crumbs of comfort.
Kyle Bartley and his knee problem is the only concern facing Clement ahead of the Terriers visit. With Sung-yueng Ki once again available for selection, Clement has many options for this game, particularly in midfield. It could be that he opts to field the same starting lineup as their last game in a bid to gel his team and continue their slow improvement with more time playing together and hopefully a confidence-boosting win.
Michael Hefele (Achilles), Jon Gorenc Stankovic (knee), Kasey Palmer (hamstring), Collin Quaner (calf) and Steve Mounie (heel) are all injured for this weekend’s clash. Aaron Mooy could also be treated carefully after a long-haul flight. However, Wagner will be reluctant to rest his star player in a game in which he could prove fundamental to the unlocking of the Swansea defence.
Key Battle: Renato Sanches vs Aaron Mooy
With both teams failing to threaten any scoring records, all eyes will be on their respective playmakers during this game. In a bid to get the most from Renato Sanches, the Portuguese midfielder was given a deeper role against West Ham in a bid to give him more time on the ball. With his fitness looking much better than when he first arrived in Wales, Sanches also looks much more comfortable on the ball now. For all of his silky skills and stylish flourishes, he still needs to find a way to impact the game, although there are definite signs of encouragement from the young talent.
After his trip around the world to help Australia beat Syria and book their ticket for Russia next year, there are some doubts as to whether Mooy will begin the game for Huddersfield. With the Terriers fast start to the season losing momentum, this game against Swansea is looking increasingly important and Wagner will surely want his star player in the team if at all possible. With a young player like Philip Billing alongside him, Mooy should at least be able to play some part in the match and his technique could provide the edge that Huddersfield need to unlock a tight Swansea defence.
A Hard Act to Follow
With few of their players impressing over the course of last season, Alfie Mawson was one of the major success stories for Swansea as they escaped relegation following a calamitous beginning to their campaign. The young centre back constantly made man of the match performances which often papered over the many defensive cracks that troubled the Swans.
Although Swansea have often looked strong at the back, Mawson has been unable to recreate these displays so far this season. Looking particularly poor in the air, Mawson could again find himself targeted by the opposition as the weakest link. With Swansea also unable to find the form they showed themselves capable of producing in the second half of last season, individual and collective improvements are quickly required for a team who presently find themselves in the familiar position of a spot in the bottom three of the table.
A Return to Old Habits
Despite keeping a clean sheet in all but two of their opening six Premier League games, Huddersfield saw Tottenham run riot in a way that many people expected to be a regular occurrence prior to the Premiership season beginning. Huddersfield were only behind in a match for a cumulative total of 18 minutes before Spurs came to town. While their style of play has largely worked with the game in their favour, they’re still relatively untested chasing an equaliser in the Premiership.
Last season the Terriers often conceded soft goals and finished with a ‘goals against’ column that was only the joint ninth strongest in the division. Their willingness to press often allows teams to exploit the space left between midfield and defence, something which increases as they go forward in search of a goal to get back into the game. Once again, there’s a fear that they could be defensively susceptible in high-pressure games towards the latter parts of this season.
PREDICTION: Swansea City 1 – 1 Huddersfield Town
Without a reliable striker present for either team, this game will require a spark from midfield to ignite the match. While both teams in need of a good result, it could also see them both throwing a little more caution to the wind than usual, although it’s still unlikely to be a goal-fest in South Wales. While Swansea look to be the team coming into form and Huddersfield moving in the opposite direction, a score draw is the most probable outcome from this game.
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