Swansea City v. Cardiff City: The South Wales derby resumes

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  • The last time this fixture was played at Liberty Stadium, Craig Bellamy scored the winner for Cardiff City.
  • If Premier League games ended at half-time so far this season, Cardiff would be bottom by seven points, Swansea would be 19th.
  • If Swansea lose this match it will be the first time they’ve ever lost three consecutive league games to their arch-rivals.

The second Premier League installment of the South Wales derby is set to take place Saturday 12:30pm ET on free to air NBC and streaming via Live Extra. Last time these two sides met a first half chess match turned into an up-tempo second half laced with bruising tackles and a single goal, from Cardiff’s Steven Caulker.

This time around the Welsh sides head to the Liberty Stadium where the atmosphere will be intense as the two relegation-threatened sides play out one of the best rivalries in the Premier League. Swansea City enter the match 12th in the table but just two points clear of the relegation zone. Making matters worse, the Swans must make do with long time defender Gary Monk at the helm after chairman Huw Jenkins fired manager Michael Laudrup earlier this week.

The firing comes after a poor domestic run of form where Swansea won only a single league match in their last ten. Part of the poor results has come from the caliber of the clubs Swansea have faced (Everton, Chelsea, Manchester United, Manchester City) but injuries to key players Michu and Michel Vorm have also dulled the club’s typically sharp play. Last week was one of the club’s weakest performances of the season, dropping a 2-0 decision to an under-whelming West Ham side.

Cardiff come into the weekend with a bit more kick to their step, having beaten Norwich 2-1 last Saturday. It was the Bluebirds first league victory since the 1-0 triumph over West Brom on December 14th. Very much a club settling into its own under new manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, Cardiff made some key acquisitions in the January transfer window brining in Fabio and Wilfried Zaha from Manchester United, swapping Kenwyne Jones for Peter Odemwingie and buying three Norweigians, Magnus Wolff Eikrem, Mats Moller Daehli and Jo Inge Berget.

Critically for Swansea, Michu (ankle) and Vorm (knee) may both make their returns from injury while Jonjo Shelvey (hamstring) and Jose Canas (ankle) are late fitness tests. For Cardiff, defender Andrew Taylor remains sidelined with a calf injury while Mark Hudson is out for an extended period with a hamstring problem.

What They’re Saying

Caretaker manager Gary Monk: “It’s massive. The circumstances make it even bigger but we are focused on the football now. We lost the first game at their place and they will want to do us at our place. These are the sorts of games you want to play in and be a part of.”

Cardiff manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer : “I know about the history of this fixture… I am aware there has never been a league double. This may be the time…. There is a passion among Cardiff fans which I knew about before and has been evident since I arrived. We understand what this fixture means to the fans.”


It’s almost impossible to predict how Swansea will react to Laudrup’s firing. Typically players raise their level to impress the new manager but with Monk at the helm it could be a different story. At the end of the day, this match requires no greater motivation. Feels like a draw so what a special story it will be when the Swans pull this one off.

Griezmann sets pre-World Cup deadline for transfer future

Photo by Gonzalo Arroyo Moreno/Getty Images
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French striker Antoine Griezmann is no stranger to seeing his name in the transfer rumor mill, but that familiarity doesn’t make it any more enjoyable for the Atletico Madrid attacker (who celebrates his 27th birthday on Wednesday).

Long-tipped for a move to either Barcelona or Manchester United, Griezmann knows one thing: He wants his future sorted before the World Cup.

[ MORE: Key newcomers for USMNT friendly ]

“I want to travel to Russia without this concern,” he told L’Equipe. “It’s not about knowing where I’ll play, but about having the peace of mind if I’m still in one place or another.

“It may be boring, but I have told my sister that, whether I stay or not, this will have to be resolved beforehand. What bothers me the most is that everyone asks me about this issue.”

That’s both honest and reasonable, and we can imagine it’s not a blast to answer questions on your future every day. He also has a contract through 2021-22, which won’t make any transfer a simple one.

Griezmann has 23 goals and 13 assists in all competitions for Atleti this season, as La Liga’s second place side remains alive in the UEFA Europa League. He’s scored 106 goals for Atleti since arriving from Real Sociedad.

NYCFC signs second Homegrown Player in history

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Four years, two Homegrowns.

That’s the decent track record for New York City FC, which has spotted a second youngster from amongst its ranks in 15-year-old Joe Scally.

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Scally joins United States youth international James Sands as Homegrown Players from NYCFC. Here’s USMNT legend and NYCFC technical director Claudio Reyna:

“Joe has been one of the top performers in the Academy for the past few seasons and represented US Soccer at U-15 and U-17 level.”

“He has all of the attributes we look for in a right-back: he’s strong in defense and can support in attack to help create chances from wide areas.”

Sands was signed last summer, and played 23 minutes for NYCFC against Colorado in his lone senior appearance.

Allow England defender Alfie Mawson to charm you

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Swansea City’s Alfie Mawson is at England national team camp, and the young man is conducting himself in downright adorable fashion.

It seems the 24-year-old London defender cannot quite believe Gareth Southgate called his name for the Three Lions.

[ MORE: Key newcomers for USMNT friendly ]

“A lot of people wouldn’t have even heard my name until this call up,” Mawson told the BBC. “You know it’s down to performing well at certain times, it’s down to doing the right things and sometimes it’s down to being a nice person.”

Mawson has played every minute for Swans this season, picking up two goals and an assist. More importantly, he’s won 3.3 aerial battles per game and 6.3 clearances.

While this won’t necessarily serve him well against the Netherlands and Italy in this week’s friendlies — they don’t put a lot of hopeful balls into aerial or clearing positions — it’s kept Mawson on the England radar for this summer’s World Cup.

Mawson is two seasons removed from playing in the Championship, and was loaned to lower league clubs like Maidenhead United and Welling United. At the time, he was going to “car boot sales with my girlfriend” which from my limited Googling seems the English equivalent of a yard sale and flea market combined.

“We are in a good position now where we don’t really have to do the car boots unless she wants a bit of excitement on a Sunday morning.”

Pretty good position, yeah.

FIFA urges Russia to hasten work on delayed World Cup arena

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SAMARA, Russia (AP) FIFA has urged Russia to speed up World Cup preparations at a stadium which needs “a huge amount of work” to be ready on time.

With less than three months to go until the World Cup, the 45,000-seat Samara Arena is the only one of 12 stadiums which doesn’t yet have a pitch installed.

The stadium in the Volga River city of Samara was already badly delayed due to a complex roof design, but now cold weather in the Russian spring is causing further problems. The pitch can’t be installed until the weather warms up.

“Obviously we would expect further progress than this,” FIFA’s chief competitions official Colin Smith said on a visit to the arena Wednesday. “We don’t yet have a pitch, and obviously we need to wait for some warmer weather conditions in order to get this pitch installed.”

As of Tuesday, instead of a field, there was an area covered with tarpaulins and snow. Temperatures are forecast to stay slightly below freezing for the rest of the week.

“There’s a huge amount of work still to be done,” Smith added. “From the information we’ve received there’s nothing stopping all these areas being completed on time. It just requires commitment and more manpower to get it done on time, and when we talk about on time, we’re talking about the commissioning date of the end of April.”

If that date passes, it could restrict FIFA’s ability to test the stadium with Russian league games and install World Cup equipment. Outside the arena, deep snowdrifts cover much of an area that is due to be landscaped for the tournament and will host some facilities for fans.

Alexander Fetisov, deputy governor of the Samara region, said the stadium will be ready.

“I’d like to avoid unnecessary dramatization of the situation,” he said. “Everything is being done so that the stadium is commissioned in the time required.”

Samara isn’t the only World Cup field which has drawn attention in recent weeks. The stadium in Kazan has been widely criticized by Russian fans after a brown, muddy surface was used for league games after the winter break.

Smith said FIFA was offering Russia help to get its fields ready, adding, “We’re doing everything possible and we’re convinced that we’re going to have a very, very high standard of pitches at this tournament.”