Swansea City are back to domestic soccer this weekend and a scrap with lowly Crystal Palace after crashing out of the Europa League last night away to Napoli. If the 3-1 second-leg and aggregate defeat was not enough of an incentive to get back to winning ways, Palace loan, Tom Ince, said the Swans have no chance on Sunday. The words have not gone down too well in Swansea, especially as the Blackpool player had talks with the Swans in January when he was all for a move to the club.
Although three teams separate Swansea in 12th and Palace in 16th, the London side are only two points behind with a game in hand on their opponents. Furthermore, they are managed by Tony Pulis who is renowned for his survival credentials. Having never been relegated in his 22-year managerial career, the Welshman will fancy his chances going up against a side still recovering from the recent departure of Michael Laudrup, the most successful manager in the club’s history. A defeat for Swansea and other results going against them at the weekend could see Garry Monk’s men sucked into a serious relegation fight over night. Right now he has to motivate his troops and get back that winning mentality for the scrap with Palace.
Pulis has also been credited with injecting a little flair and technique into Palace, attributes he was often accused of stifling when he was manager of Stoke City. He is also one of a dying breed in the Premier League as few of the managers in the wrong half of the table have the experience required to keep a team in England’s top division. The likes of West Bromwich Albion’s Pepe Mel, Sunderland’s Gus Poyet, Cardiff City’s Ole Gunnar Solskjær and Fulham’s Felix Magath, whose side are rooted to the bottom, are tasting a Premier League relegation dogfight for the first time. West Ham United’s Sam Allardyce is also a survival specialist, but his team’s current purple patch is edging them even closer to safety with each passing week.
Pulis’ leadership qualities contrast with those of Swansea interim player-manager Garry Monk. He has to win over a group of players still suffering from the hangover of their best ever campaign last year, with a 9th place finish and the League Cup to show for it. Although Monk is thought to be well-liked by the playing and coaching staff, having a teammate take on the manager’s role during the business end of the season when survival is at stake is not always easy viewing for players. However, Swansea and their chairman Huw Jenkins rarely get it wrong when they appoints managers. Not only did Laudrup deliver before the two fell out, previous Swansea managers Brendan Rodgers and Roberto Martinez are having good runs with Liverpool and Everton, respectively.
Although Monk may bemoan the fact his team have had less time than Palace to prepare for the clash, the Swans hope to have Nathan Dyer fit for the game after he picked up a heel injury in the defeat in Naples. Palace boss Pulis will be banking on the timely return of Glenn Murray to fire his side to safety. He netted 31 goals in all competitions last season when they came up from the Championship. Now he will be aiming to bag his first Premier League goal. Now Murray’s immediate target is to be ready for the scrap with Swansea.
By Robert Shepherd