Whether Steve Cooper has set his side targets for the remaining nine games of whether he will keep up his mantra of ‘taking one game at a time’ remains to be seen but tonight he starts the run of nine games that will make our break our end of season destiny for May.
We have nine games left to turn all the hard work of the first six months of the season into a promotion winning run and it will be my belief that we will need to win seven of those nine games if we are to secure promotion,.
Second placed Watford have a six point advantage, have played a game more and have a significantly better goal difference than the Swans and (I think) can confidently believe that promotion is theirs especially given their form running into the international break.
But at this time of the season we know that anything can change so Cooper has to set his side the belief that they are going into this part of the season with a real chance of securing glory for the club and the city but also with the belief that we cannot afford to drop any points.
We know that Watford will, Brentford will and we will as well but the simple reality is that the team out of those three that drops the least points will be the one that almost certainly takes their place alongside Norwich in the Premier League next season.
That is assuming that Norwich don’t capitulate totally in their own last eight games of the season but with a fourteen point advantage over us the chances of that seem about as likely as the average Saturday evening lottery jackpot being yours.
Performances heading into the international break were sub standard. That’s not an overreaction but we have not hit anything like our best form since we beat Norwich at the Liberty at the start of February. Whether that was down to tiredness, a change in tactics or an unbalancing of the side thanks to the January window will remain to be seen but when tonight’s game is over we will have a much better idea of that one given that most of the squad have had two weeks rest since we passed up the chance to create history against Cardiff.
Cooper’s preparations will not have been helped by the players he has had away on international duty with the likes of Connor Roberts, Ryan Manning and Marc Guehi only joining up with the squad in the second part of this week which could mean their presence tonight is unlikely? Andre Ayew is another one who has been away and he joins a list of people we will need to check on the fitness of which also includes Conor Hourihane and Guehi alongside some longer term absentees.
“Andre is back, but he had a bit of a knock playing for Ghana,” Cooper said earlier in the week.
“Conor came off against Cardiff. When Conor walked off we thought he may have pulled his hamstring and could be out for two to three weeks.
“But it was nerve damage, rather than a strain, which is a positive.
“So those two players have a chance of playing but aren’t training at the moment.”
For the home side, they have their own challenges in the last weeks of the season. Currently they stand three points ahead of the bottom three in the division but will be looking nervously over their shoulders with Rotherham having four games in hand to close that gap.
Pressure on both sides could be increased by the time kick off comes around with every other side in the Championship completing their fixtures ahead of this one but on the same theme it could open up an opportunity for both to push on in search of their individual goals.
It will be the first time for some time that we go into a game with promotion no longer completely in our hands although I am not sure that the pressure of it being in our own hands is a reason for our poor performances in recent weeks.
The game is the first of a busy Championship weekend for all teams, the Swans will welcome Preston to the Liberty on Monday to follow this game. Two wins for Easter will do very nicely. Let’s hope that the team can deliver.
Keep updated with all the latest news and views of the fans from our matchday thread for this game – you can visit the thread here
Today’s Championship Fixtures