Leon Britton

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Premier League Preview: Liverpool vs. Swansea City

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  • Swansea has only won once at Anfield in PL play – last year
  • The last 9 PL matches between Liverpool and Swansea has seen 35 goals
  • Liverpool has not lost on Boxing Day since 1982 vs. Manchester United

Liverpool is one of three teams in a dogfight for the fourth spot in the Premier League table, and things are heating up on Boxing Day. The Reds host 20th-placed Swansea City at Anfield (Watch live, 12:30 p.m. ET, on NBCSN and NBCSports.com) with a chance to at the least keep pace with Tottenham and Arsenal.

The Reds are coming off a wild 3-3 draw against Arsenal which, following a pair of clean sheets against Bournemouth and West Brom, the defense reverted back to old habits despite dominating the game for long spells. Jurgen Klopp admitted Liverpool has “obvious problems” in defense, ones that Swansea will look to capitalize on. However, Liverpool has fared much better this campaign against the bottom half of the table than they did last season.

Swansea, meanwhile, plays three of its next four matches away from home (four of its next five if you count the FA Cup match at Wolves) and will need to pick up points wherever possible to close the gap towards safety – currently four points. Leon Britton, who took charge of Swansea’s draw with Crystal Palace, will remain as interim manager for the trip to Anfield.

Team news

Liverpool: Out – Jordan Henderson (hamstring), Alberto Moreno (ankle), Marko Grujic (finger), Joel Matip (muscle), Nathaniel Clyne (back), Adam Bogdan (knee).

Swansea City: Out – Kyle Naughton (groin), Wilfried Bony (hamstring), Ki Sung-Yueng (calf), Kyle Bartley (knee). QuestionableLeroy Fer (back).

What they’re saying

Jurgen Klopp on drawing matches this year: “The draw [against Arsenal] is really not good, but it’s good because again we were the better side in draw number eight, and we should have won like all the other draws we had. So that’s…in development, even though nobody wants to hear that, it’s a very important thing, that’s a very important thing. In a very difficult league, performance-wise we are very consistent so far.”

Leon Britton on the permanent managerial position: “The fans have been great with me, as player or manager, you could hear them being very vocal which I appreciate, but in terms of the job, nothing has changed and I’m not looking for the job full time. [Management] need[s] to make the right decision, make sure it’s clear what they want, whether that’s before Liverpool, after Liverpool or in January. They have to make sure they take their time and get the right man.”


As mentioned earlier, Liverpool has been quite good against the bottom half of the table, most recently holding Bournemouth and West Brom both goalless, plus beating Brighton 5-1 and Stoke City 3-0. It’s hard to look past a free-flowing Liverpool in this game, by a 4-1 scoreline in a game that could get out of hand late.

Swansea City player Leon Britton named caretaker coach

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Leon Britton will take charge of Swansea City for their huge clash with relegation rivals Crystal Palace on Saturday (Watch live, 10 a.m. ET on CNBC and online via NBCSports.com) after Paul Clement was fired on Wednesday.

Britton, 35, has been working on the coaching staff for the post few months at Swansea and the midfielder has been with the club for 15 years as a professional and has risen with them through the leagues. He is a fans favorite and will earn the respect of his players immediately.

The elegant English midfielder will take charge on a caretaker basis, with the likes of Tony Pulis, Ronald Koeman and Ryan Giggs already being ruled out of the running for the position.

Although he admitted now is not the right time for him to be given the role on a permanent basis, Britton believes he can help lift the Swansea squad and his fellow teammates in the next few weeks.

“That’s one of the reasons I agreed to take this role – because I believe I can have an effect on the team in the immediate future,” Britton said. “I am sure the fans will be behind the team on Saturday and hopefully I can help lift the players. We have to make sure we’re in the right frame of mind and hopefully that will lead to a result.”

With Swansea sitting bottom of the Premier League table with just 12 points and three wins from their first 18 games of the season, Britton and whoever comes in on a permanent basis have a huge job on their hands.

On a lighter note, let’s focus on Britton’s team talk ahead of the Palace game: “Leon. Captain. Leon. Penalty kick taker. Set pieces. Leon…” That would be amusing if it happened, but Britton confirmed he’s struggling with a calf injury and unavailable.

Joking aside, if Britton does well then it isn’t inconceivable he will be given the job on a permanent basis. Look at the Bundesliga and how well young coaches have done in tough circumstances in recent years, plus Swansea did think outside the box in the past when it came to managerial appointments as young coaches like Roberto Martinez and Garry Monk were given chances.

Since they were promoted to the PL in 2011, the Swans have been proponents of attacking, entertaining soccer with the “Swansea Way” leading them to the top 10 under Michael Laudrup, a League Cup trophy and European action.

However, the Swansea Way has become somewhat muddled in recent seasons with the South Wales side now going through three managers in the past 12 months in Francesco Guidolin, Bob Bradley and Clement. In each of the last two campaign they’ve survived relegation with a late season surge and it will be another struggle this season.

Without Gylfi Sigurdsson and Fernando Llorente, who were both sold in the summer, it is tough to see where Swansea’s goals will come from. They are the lowest scorers in the PL with just 10 goals this season and with Jordan Ayew and Wilfried Bony struggling for form, Tammy Abraham has done his best in his first season in the PL but it seems like that won’t be enough.

If Swansea lose to Crystal Palace at home this weekend, they could be as much as seven points from safety. They’ve been in worse situations than this and survived but the situation is getting pretty desperate.

Swansea promotes captain to player-assistant role

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Swansea City is replacing Claude Makelele by promoting from within its ranks.

And by ranks, we mean squad.

Longtime Swans midfielder Leon Britton has been promoted to player-assistant coach by Paul Clement, replacing new Eupen manager Makelele.

[ MORE: USMNT-Portugal preview ]

Britton, who is close to acquiring his UEFA A license, has been with the Welsh outfit since 2003. He’s made 436 appearances as the club moved from League Two all the way up to the Premier League, with just a 26-match move to Sheffield United in the middle.

From SwanseaCity.com:

“I feel he is the perfect person for the role at this time. He is still very much in my plans as a player, but now we can tap into his knowledge as a coach too. He has a lot to give in that respect.

“He now sits in on all management meetings and on the days where he is not training, he will be part of the coaching set-up. Similarly, on a matchday, if he’s in the squad then his focus is on playing. If not, then he will be in the dugout as part of the coaching staff.”

The 35-year-old isn’t going to hurt anything from stepping into the coaches’ GroupMe chats, and has captained Swans during his four starts this season. It’s a natural, if unusual for this day and age, fit at the Liberty Stadium.

Swans have a history bringing players into the management fold in an even more dramatic fashion, hiring actual player Garry Monk to replace Michael Laudrup. Monk did not appear for Swans after the appointment.

Premier League Preview: Sunderland vs. Swansea City

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  • Swans won 3-0 on Dec. 10
  • Draws in last two at Stadium of Light
  • Sunderland leads all-time 13W-11D-9L

Swansea City knows a Saturday win at Sunderland could provide the three points that keep the Welsh side in the Premier League (Watch live at 10 a.m. ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com).

If Swans win at Sunderland and Hull City loses at Crystal Palace, Swansea will be safe in the Premier League. A Hull win would move Swans level with Palace on points, but there’s significant goal difference to overcome between Swansea and Palace.

Sunderland can only hope to play spoiler, and put together a rare winning streak following last week’s surprising win over desperate Hull City.

What they’re saying

Sunderland’s George Honeyman on finishing strong: “There’s always going to tension with where we are and the results we’ve been getting, no matter what the performance is like. They sell out every week away from home, it feels amazing to give them something, you see them at the end and you do think, I wish we could give them this every week. That’s the key, we need to give them a bit of hope for next season, build some momentum. They’ll feel better about next season if we can put in some good performances.

Swansea City’s Leon Britton on traveling fans“It’s the moments when you feel the opposition are getting on top or maybe a player or two are getting a little tired – that’s when hearing the fans singing your name or singing about the team really gives you some extra energy. It’s down to the players to perform on the pitch, but the supporters certainly play their part as the players respond to them.”


The long trip north may sap something from Swansea, but they still nab a point with a 2-2 draw at the Stadium of Light.

Premier League Preview: Swansea City vs. Stoke City

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  • Potters won 3-1 on Halloween
  • Stoke leads all-time 25W-21D-21L
  • 5W-3D-3L in Premier League

Swansea City’s safety fight gets a Saturday visit from a Stoke City side seeking club history (Watch live at 10 a.m. ET on CNBC and online via NBCSports.com).

Swans are two points back of Hull City for 17th and have been ice cold in recent weeks, failing to build on a remarkable run at the turn of the calendar. Since winning five of eight to start 2017, Swans are winless in six with just a single point gained in a visit from Middlesbrough.

Stoke hasn’t been great shakes, either, though perhaps the Potters woke up in snapping a four-match losing skid with a 3-1 win at Hull City last week. They also have the goal of finishing in the Premier League’s top half for an unprecedented fourth-straight season.

What they’re saying

Swans captain Leon Britton on the import of win“Stoke is the biggest game we have had in a long time. And whenever we have had big games in the past, our fans have always played a vital role for us. They have helped us achieve all the things we have achieved during my time at the club and we need them to do it again for us now.”

Stoke boss Mark Hughes on facing a struggling foe“We need to go to Swansea and understand their situation and capitalize on it. The key is to suck confidence from them.I’m sure Paul Clement is enjoying the experience of managing in the Premier League even if it’s a difficult situation for him.”


Stoke has a bunch of battlers, and that character will serve it well against a desperate Swans. Expect both teams to strike in a 1-1 draw.