15:00 GMT, Saturday 10th March, John Smith’s Stadium (Huddersfield, England)
Huddersfield’s brief resurgence of two wins following a run of five consecutive defeats was ended at Wembley last weekend to leave the Terriers set to build again. Their next 3 fixtures see them face the only 3 teams they’ve left to play who are currently below 11th-placed Everton. To start this potentially season-defining run of games with a win could prove critical to their survival claims.
David Wagner’s side come into this match level on points with the Swans, however, it’s Carlos Carvalhal’s new club who boast the superior form. With 4 wins and 2 draws taken from the same 8-match period, Swansea have done so with some impressive scalps now filed away in the history books. To earn their stay in the league it will take more than memories though, however, victory over a close rival will help them double-down on their chances.
Last Time Out
Tottenham Hotspur 2-0 Huddersfield Town (Premier League)
A cautious display did not pay off for the Terriers who were outplayed in every area of the pitch against a slick Spurs side. With 25% of possession and only one good opening to score, Huddersfield rarely looked likely to surprise the hosts.
Amid some good defensive displays in their rearguard action, Jonas Lössl was the player to shine for Huddersfield. The keeper made 5 saves from Tottenham, 4 of which came from the opening half alone.
While it was a hard-working display put in by the Terriers, it proved insufficient to spike Tottenham’s charge. A goal in each half from Son Heung-min proved the difference between the two teams, however, the gulf in class looked far greater than just a single player on the Wembley turf.
Swansea City 4-1 West Ham United (Premier League)
Swansea lifted themselves out of the relegation zone in style with a crushing home win over the Hammers. There was first starts for Andy King and André Ayew since the pair joined the Swans in January, on-loan and permanently respectively. It was Ki Sung-yueng who supplied the early fireworks though, scoring after 8-minutes and then making the assist for Mike van der Hoorn just after the half-hour mark.
With West Ham put on the rack from the beginning, Swansea did not relent in applying pressure on the dazed visitors and could easily have been enjoying a larger lead at half-time.
It took King only 3 minutes after the break to widen the gap as he tapped in fellow debutant André Ayew’s parried shot into the net. Like his brother Jordan, André Ayew ran the Hammers defence into the ground with the latter eventually winning a penalty midway through the second half that the former slotted coolly into the goal. Despite the defence being largely untroubled, there was a consolation goal for West Ham, however, it barely upset the Swans rhythm and they ran out a comfortable win to move them up into 13th.
Huddersfield Town Lineup
Having picked up a thigh injury just before half time at Wembley last weekend, Alex Pritchard faces a race to be fit for this match. Aaron Mooy (knee) and Elias Kachunga (knee) will again miss out, however, Chris Löwe has recovered from his groin injury, although, Terence Kongolo has recently impressed and is likely to keep his place in the starting lineup. While few changes are expected, Philip Billing could force his way back into the reckoning in central midfield.
Swansea City Lineup
There are no major new problems for Carvalhal this weekend, however, Angel Rangel (groin) Leroy Fer (Achilles) Renato Sanches (ankle) and Wilfried Bony (hamstring) are all still out of action. After such a convincing win over West Ham last weekend, it would be a surprise if the Portuguese manager changed his winning team.
Key Battle: Florent Hadergjonaj (Huddersfield) vs Martin Olsson (Swansea)
Having just signed a permanent deal from FC Ingolstadt 04, the Swiss right-back has been rewarded for a series of good performances. Having been slowly integrated into the first-team, Hadergjonaj has now established himself in the starting lineup ahead of Tommy Smith. Having had a game to forget facing Son Heung-min last weekend, the 23-year-old will be keen to impress again in return for the club’s show of faith in providing him with a new contract.
Challenging Hadergjonaj down the wing will be another flying wing-back in the shape of Martin Olsson. Since Carvalhal arrived in Wales, Olsson has been pushed much higher up the pitch and it’s a change which he has thrived with. Although he is yet to be involved directly in a Swansea goal since Carvalhal took charge of the club, he gets heavily involved in the game, especially supporting the forwards.
The 2-0 loss to Tottenham saw the Terriers concede their 49th and 50th league goals of the season. As the third-weakest defence in the league behind Stoke and West Ham who are both on 54, this is a worrying problem for Wagner. A shortage of goals also means they have the second-worst goal difference in the top-flight, only one better than Stoke’s -26.
With the race for survival looking likely to go down to the wire, this could become a crucial factor in the coming weeks. Add to this that Stoke have recently tightened up defensively since Paul Lambert’s arrival and it’s not great reading for the Terriers. With only 3 points separating them from the relegation zone, wins are needed not just to increase their points total, but to help mask their goals against column.
Carlos Carvalhal has had a huge impact with the Swans since arriving in Wales at around the turn of the year. With only two losses and a majority of wins coming from his 15 games in charge, the lost cause 5 points from safety and had picked up only 5 from a possible 30 points are now sitting 3 clear and in the quarter-finals of the FA Cup.
Amongst the injection of confidence and some tactical tweaking, Carvalhal has also carefully micro-managed some under-performing players in his dressing room.
With Renato Sanches closing in on fitness after a series of hamstring problems, his powers could be tested to their limits. However, if anyone can get Sanches firing on all cylinders again, it could well prove to be the Portuguese manager.
Prediction: Huddersfield Town 3-2 Swansea City
A crunch game for both teams, this will be the first of three consecutive challenges for the Terriers against teams in and around them in the table. Swansea too will be desperate for a win, considering they’re level on points with the Terriers and in a near-identical situation. With both teams being much stronger at home than on the road and Swansea’s form proving inconsistent, this game could well produce a lot of excitement but the newly promoted side could be the one with more to celebrate.
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