The Football League Cup Final 24th February 2013
Swansea City vs. Bradford City
And what an unusual and compelling game it promises to be with this year's final seeing a real David vs. Goliath clash, when League Two side Bradford face Premier League opponents Swansea on Sunday.
It is the 'battle of the birds' as The Bantams take on The Swans in the final match of the 2012–13 Football League Cup, now in it's 53rd season, a football competition for the 92 teams in the Premier League and the Football League.
The Bookies have seen the obvious difference in league position, squad depth, player class and financial clout and acted accordingly, with Swansea 4/11 betting odds to lift the trophy whilst Bradford are 15/2 to achieve 'the impossible' with bet365. The draw (after 90 minutes) is at 7/2 with bet365 but it is important to remember this final will go to a 30 minute period of extra-time and then penalties to decide the winner on the day, so there is plenty of added value and betting action to be had in this game but you must check with your preferred Bookie as to which bets are for 90 minutes and so on!
Bradford are 25/1 to win the game in extra-time and 14/1 to win on penalties, Swansea are 7/1 and 12/1 respectively to do the same, all with William Hill. Bradford are 9/2 to lift the trophy in any fashion against Swansea's 1/6 with bet365.
It is fair to say that this has been one of the best, most compelling and exciting competitions in recent years with some memorable and very unpredictable matches, like the 7-5 Arsenal comeback win at Reading, having been 4-0 down. Chelsea beating Man Utd 5-4 in similar comeback fashion and Aston Villa beating Man City 4-2 in Manchester in another thriller, before being overcome 4-3 in the two-legged semi-final by Bradford.
There have been some even more memorable incidents, like the first ever sending off for kicking a ball-boy, courtesy of Eden Hazzard, in Chelsea's losing semi-final at Swansea, which in turn has put the Welsh side in their first ever major cup final in their 100 year history.
And of course, we have the giant killing heroics of fellow finalists Bradford City from the fourth tier of English Football, who have knocked out three Premier League teams, having beaten top tier sides Wigan, Arsenal and Aston Villa to progress to their first cup final in over 100 years, on their fairytale cup run to this weekend's final.
The winner of the Football League Cup will enter the 2013–14 UEFA Europa League in the third qualifying round too, so this is now an important competition for all 92 teams involved and could be financially 'life changing' for Bradford especially, but for either team that does get to go play in Europe and have the chance to progress to the competition proper.
Despite Swansea City being in Wales, if they win the final they will be able to enter the Europa League and would represent England due to playing in the English football league system!
Bradford City of League Two, are appearing in their first major cup final since they defeated Newcastle United in 1911 in the FA Cup, and are the first fourth-tier side to reach the League Cup final in over 50 years – the last being Rochdale in 1962. Swansea, now of the Premier League, are as I said, appearing in their first major English cup final in their 100-year history and only ten years after almost dropping out of the football league amidst financial and managerial turmoil. So quite an achievement from these two less fashionable teams!
And for those of you who think this is a one-sided affair and a foregone conclusion it is worth remembering that the first ever Wembley League Cup Final played in 1967 was won when third division QPR came back from 2-0 down to beat top-flight side and holders West Bromwich Albion 3-2, with second-half goals from Roger Morgan, Rodney Marsh and Mark Lazarus giving Rangers a famous victory over the holders. Third division Swindon then repeated the feat in 1969, beating Arsenal in the final by 3-1. So you see, miracles can (and do) happen!
Some may even regard the Bantams' achievement as restoring their faith in the old game, a victory to demonstrate that not all the glory inevitably lands in the laps of the richest and most powerful. The team pieced together by manager Phil Parkinson at a cost of £7,500 can now deservedly take its place on English football's greatest stage this weekend and why not emulate the feats of those past teams I mentioned and make it four out of four Premier League scalps?
It is worth stating the plain facts again. Bradford City have become the first team from English football's fourth tier to reach the final of this competition since Rochdale in 1962 and have taken out three Premier League teams - Wigan, Arsenal and now Aston Villa - in the process. It will be four if they beat Swansea on Sunday and would be an achievement that may never be matched if they can do it.
It is a human as well as footballing story. This is a club and a city that have known great tragedy - 56 people died and many more were injured in the fire at Valley Parade in 1985. It is a history that will add poignancy to the joy of their day at Wembley.
So other than both sides cup exploits, history and the human element, what kind of form are they both in, what sort of season are they having in the league and how will all that affect this Sunday? Here are all my Free Picks from SBRForum.
Well, both sides are actually in similar recent form and respective league positions overall and it is fair to say that they have both been in indifferent form in 2013, with only five wins in their last 20 matches between them. After their 2-1 defeat at Wimbledon last time out, Bradford are now seven points off the play-offs, having won just once in the league in 2013. They did beat Wycombe 3-0 away the previous game but have lost six of their last 10, though one of those was part of their two-legged victory against Villa, so must be taken in context of the aggregate 4-3 win! They sit 11th in League Two but have a game (or two) in hand over their play-off rivals due to their cup exploits and could still have a chance at promotion this season.
Swansea were humiliated 5-0 by Liverpool last time out and whatever you say about resting players and having one eye on this game already, that result will have shocked and knocked Swansea somewhat and Bradford will look to exploit them early on for sure, and further add to their fears on the day. Swansea are a healthy eighth in the EPL and challenging for a Europa League place regardless of what happens Sunday, but to have that spot guaranteed in February could be priceless for Swansea and could even spur them on to push for even more in the EPL this season if they do triumph Sunday.
They have won just three of their last 10 games though, losing the same amount and drawing four, so though faltering a little they still manage to pick up points in the league and as I have said, it is fair that both sides have had more than one eye on this game in recent weeks, and why not, this is once in a life time stuff, especially for the Bradford squad.
I think there will be goals in this one and expect plenty of passion, endeavour and commitment in what will be a tale of two styles. Bradford are a good bet at 18/1 to win the first half and draw the second and like I said folks, with extra time and penalties, there are plenty of extra and unusual permutations to enjoy and have a flutter on in this one. I half expect this game to go to extra-time actually and provide us with a full two hours plus of drama and wouldn't be at all surprised to see this one decided on penalties when it comes down to it.
Swansea most definitely have the class and in Michu the goal threat, to overpower Bradford, and they are capable of frustrating their opponents with how well they keep the ball. Swansea's 18 goal man is 11/4 to get the first one of the day with William Hill. Winger Wayne Routledge is the same 11/4 to score anytime and has popped up with five goals from the wing so far.
Expect Bradford to come at them early and take the game by the scruff of the neck and stop Swansea's passing game if they can and therefore backing Nahki Wells, their own 18 goal man, at 8/1 to get the first is the preferred of my Free Soccer Picks here. James Hanson and Alan Connell, who both have eight goals this term, are 10/3 and 7/2 respectively to get one anytime to represent more good value here.
I think this game will be up in the over 3.5 at 7/4 with William Hill and maybe even in the over 4.5 at 9/2 as I can see this one ending 3-2 to someone, I just haven't decided who yet? Bradford are 50/1 with bet365 to win by that score and Swansea are 28/1 with the same betting house.
This is a Cup Final too people, so look for someone to make a name for themselves and expect the unexpected choosing your bets in this one. Swansea should let their class tell and beat a spirited Bradford, but I for one have a sneaking suspicion that there is one last sting in the tail of the tale of Bradford City in the 2013 League Cup Final?
Bradford to win at 15/2 and 9/2 to lift the trophy one way or another, both with bet365. A correct score prediction of 3-2 at 50/1 for all your loose change and the over 3.5 at 7/4 with William Hill
Soccer Picks: Swansea City vs. Bradford City
The Football League Cup Final 24th February 2013