This Sunday, Wembley will play host to one of the most unlikely cup finals in many years. League 2 side Bradford City face the challenge of overcoming Premier League opponents Swansea City. Ordinarily you’d expect the game to be a walk in the park for the Swans but the astonishing journey that has given Bradford their place in the final shows that this game may be one that lives long in the memory.
Wins against Notts County, Watford and Burton Albion gave the Bantams a well-earned place in the fourth round. Next up came Premier League side Wigan. The match was goalless after 90 minutes and also after extra time, resulting in a penalty shoot-out. Bradford won the shoot-out 4–2. It was the first time Bradford had knocked a Premiership club out of the competition since they defeated Nottingham Forest in September 1995 but they were only just getting started.
The quarter-final draw saw them host Arsenal. Garry Thompson had put the Bantams in the lead in the 16th minute just for Thomas Vermaelen to equalise late on. The game went to extra time but no one could break the deadlock. It would have to be penalties to separate the two sides and again Bradford’s penalty taking prowess prevailed as they netted three times compared to Arsenal’s two.
The semi-final saw them face yet more top flight opponents in the form of Aston Villa. The first leg was held at Valley Parade and the League 2 side got of to a dream start. Nahki Wells gave them the lead after 20 minutes and Rory McArdle scored in the 77th minute. Andreas Weimann scored for Aston Villa in the 82nd minute, but Carl McHugh restored Bradford’s two-goal lead after heading home Gary Jones’ corner. Villa managed to win the second leg 2-1 but it was not enough to overturn the aggregate deficit. Bradford were going to Wembley.
Swansea also enjoyed an impressive route to the final, comprehensive wins over Liverpool at Anfield and then Chelsea over two legs will see them also heading down Wembley Way this Sunday. The game will be The Swans’ first ever appearance in a major English final and Michael Laudrup’s men will of course be hungry for silverware.
Swansea will go into the game as favourites but if we have learned anything from the performances of Bradford this season its that they lie down lightly. Phil Parkinson has created a solid back four, a hard-working mid-field and star players like Nahki Wells may just provide that bit of quality and creativity to break down the Swansea defence and if the League 2 side can manage to take the game to penalties they will certainly fancy their chances of victory having won their last nine penalty shoot outs in cup competitions.
Rory McArdle (ankle) and James Meredith are doubtful. Andrew Davies could step in to fill the centre-back position after making it through two matches after his long lay-off with injury.
Chico Flores is likely to miss the match due to the injury sustained against QPR. But apart from that Swansea City have their key players fully fit after leaving them on the bench for the Premier League fixture with Liverpool.