Our final game of the 2012/13 Barclays Premier League season sees Fulham travel to Swansea City with our place in the top flight secured for another year.
The month of May has not been kind to us as we lost at home to Reading and Liverpool – making it five defeats in a row – but with FA Cup with Budweiser winners Wigan Athletic losing to Arsenal in midweek and becoming the third team to drop into the npower Championship, we are safe once again.
Our recent record against Swansea has not been good as we have lost the last three games, but we have the edge in the historical contests going all the way back to 1925 and have won 28 of the 59 games in the league. Last time out at the Cottage on 29th December, we slipped to a 2-1 defeat without regular number one Mark Schwarzer in goal and were unlucky as we had more than twice as many shots as the opposition.
At the Liberty Stadium, we will likely be without Kieran Richardson after the left-back was forced off with an injury against Liverpool, but aside from the absence of Steve Sidwell who is on the last of his four-match ban, the rest of the squad are fit and focused on ending the season on a high.
The Swans will assess Angel Rangel who has been out with a calf injury and goalkeeper Michel Vorm (concussion) ahead of the game, but they will have top scorer Michu in the side after he recovered from a hamstring injury to take part in the 2-1 defeat against Manchester United last weekend. Ki Sung-Yueng and Roland Lamah have had recent complaints, but could be called into action from the bench.
It has been quite a season on the Welsh coast as a top half finish in the Premier League looks assured and their incredible Capital One Cup success – the first major trophy in their 101 year history – has seen this side written into the history books.
Two years ago, Swansea arrived as the first Welsh team to reach the Premier League (since its inception in 1992) under Brendan Rodgers and have not looked back since. Now under the watchful eye of Danish legend Michael Laudrup, the side have gone from strength-to-strength as they have won many admirers for their passing style and are regularly on top in the possession stats.
In bringing in 18-goal striker Michu for a paltry sum last summer, the Swans have shown considerable acumen in the transfer windows as well, and it has seen them pull off some impressive results: most notably a 2-0 win against Arsenal at the Emirates and holding the top three (Manchester United, Manchester City and Chelsea) to draws at home.
Currently sitting in ninth place in the table, they have struggled a little of late and have only won once in their last nine games; although a 3-2 win over Wigan at the DW Stadium was the hammer blow that virtually assured the Latics of relegation.
Last time out
In our last match before the New Year, Fulham hosted Swansea with David Stockdale making his return in goal to plug the gap left by the injured Mark Schwarzer. Unfortunately, it was not the return he would have hoped for.
With a tough festive schedule approaching its climax, Fulham made six changes from the last game and welcomed back forward Bryan Ruiz into the fold. The Costa Rican’s corner saw the first chance of the match on 10 minutes, but Dimitar Berbatov volleyed over having done well to out-muscle his marker.
The 19th minute provided the first goal as Nathan Dyer’s scuffed cross was pushed back into the danger area courtesy of a save by Stockdale – who had been recalled from his loan spell at Hull City a week previous – and Swansea striker Danny Graham hooked it home.
Before the break, Ruiz went close with a couple of free-kicks that fizzed wide of the upright, while Kerim Frei hit an effort wide after good interplay with Berbatov.
But Swansea then doubled their lead as Stockdale’s 52nd minute clearance hammered against Brede Hangeland and it rebounded for Pablo Hernandez to knock a square ball to Jonathan De Guzman who slotted home.
Ruiz continued to pressure the Swansea defence and he got one back as Berbatov headed Frei’s cross against the bar for the forward to net from close range. Berbatov then had the ball in the net again, as Giorgos Karagounis’ effort was spilt by Gerhard Tremmel in the wet conditions but the offside flag denied us a point.
Players to watch
Ashley Williams: One of the top defensive performers in the league this season, the 28-year-old has played in all but one of the club’s games and has received rave reviews for bolstering the Swansea defence. Williams was playing in the npower League Two with Stockport as recently as 2008, but has enjoyed a quick rise to the top, becoming captain of his country as well as his club.
Leon Britton: The metronome in the heart of the Swansea midfield, Britton has come on leaps and bounds since he left the club on a free in June 2010 only to return a year later. Against Fulham at the Cottage last season, the 30-year-old was arguably at his most influential as he passed the ball 100 times, with 96 per cent accuracy. That is his game in a nutshell and his vision forms a key part of the Swans’ attack.
Michu: With 18 goals this season, the Spanish striker has proved himself to be one of the most potent forwards in the league. He was a virtual unknown in England when he arrived for £2m but his power, pace and cool head in front of goal have seen him stamp his authority on most who have come up against him.
The magic numbers
11. The percentage of Swansea's goals (five of 47) from set-pieces this season; the lowest proportion in the Premier League.
2. Swansea are one of only two teams this season yet to win a penalty kick (alongside Spurs). No side have gone a whole season without winning a penalty since Charlton in 2004-05.
1. The Swans have won just one of their last nine Premier League games (W1 D3 L5).
5. Fulham have lost five successive Premier League games. They have only lost six in a row once before in the competition; between Feb-Mar 2002.
70. Swansea have scored the highest percentage of goals in the second half of matches in the Premier League this season (70%).
38. Michu has scored 38% of Swansea's goals this season; only Aston Villa's Cristian Benteke (42%) has scored a higher proportion of his sides' goals in the Premier League in 2012-13.
11. Only Robin van Persie (12) has scored more goals at home than Michu (11) in the Premier League this season.
11. The number of Dimitar Berbatov's 14 Premier League goals for Fulham which have come before half-time.
3. Swansea have won each of their previous three Premier League meetings with Fulham.