Gary Monk

Swansea City rolling: Garry Monk says sense of ‘togetherness’ has been crucial

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It wouldn’t have been easy to predict Swansea City at fifth place in the Premier League standings right now, ahead of Arsenal, Manchester United, Liverpool and Everton.

Nonetheless, Garry Monk’s team is situated in that exact spot, with notable wins over Manchester United, Everton, and last week, Arsenal. The Swans will soon battle reigning champions Manchester City, a matchup that will prove if Swansea has the drive to incite a solid winning run.

The Sky Blues are coming off a disappointing 2-2 draw to 19th-place Queens Park Rangers, and will certainly desire a victory, so Monk emphasized keeping players’ sights focused on their formidable opponent.

The match between Manchester City and Swansea will be available for viewers on NBC Sports Live Extra at 9:00 a.m. ET this Saturday.

Watch Live: Swansea City vs. Aston Villa (Lineups and Discuss)

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With a win at Liberty Stadium, Swansea could clinch Premier League safety – but they’ll need to beat an Aston Villa side that’s also eager to avoid relegation (Watch live at 10 a.m. ET online via Live Extra).

Swansea, currently 13th, have 36 points from 35 games. If they collect all three points today, they could be on their way to a fourth season in the Premier League. However, they’ll also be paying special attention to Norwich’s trip to Old Trafford later in the day, as well as Fulham’s concurrent match with Hull City. Should Fulham lose or draw, and Manchester United emerge victorious, a Swansea win clinches safety for the Welsh side.

While Aston Villa are not the most threatening of opponents, desperation may make them formidable. For the fourth straight year, the Villa find themselves in a relegation battle. Paul Lambert’s men can take small comfort from the fact that they’re five points clear with a game in hand, but with their final two fixtures at Manchester City and at Tottenham, getting a result at Swansea looks vital.

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Lambert, apparently thrilled with the draw against Southampton that broke a four-game losing streak, has decided to name an unchanged side. The Villa coach knows that a draw more or less secures safety for his side, and it looks as though that’s what he’s determined to take from the Liberty. Brad Guzan starts in goal, while Gabby Agbonlahor and Andi Weimann attempt to make up for the loss of Christian Benteke up front.

Swansea were more successful last time out, coming back from a goal down to beat Newcastle 2-1. So there’s little surprise that Gary Monk, too, makes no changes to his lineup. Wilfried Bony, who scored both goals at St. James’ Park, starts up top, hoping to add to his total of 13 goals this Premier League season.

LINEUPS

Swansea City: Vorm, Rangel, Amat, Williams, Davies, Britton, Shelvey, de Guzman, Hernandez, Routledge, Bony

Subs: Tremmel, Bartley, Taylor, Fulton, Emnes, Dyer, Vazquez

Aston Villa: Guzan, Bacuna, Vlaar, Baker, Bertrand, Albrighton, Westwood, Delph, El Ahmadi, Agbonlahor, Weimann

Subs: Steer, Sylla, Tonev, Lowton, Clark, Holt, Robinson

Everton 3-2 Swansea City: Everton tighten grip on Europa League spot (video)

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The Champions League is but a dream for Everton, but Europa is looking increasingly likely. A 3-2 win over Swansea City puts the Toffees temporarily into fifth, depending on how Tottenham do against Southampton tomorrow. The Swans, however, are now just four points in the clear, although neither Sunderland or Fulham are making a decent bid for safety.

The first half at Goodison Park started rather quietly.

Wilfried Bony two chances rather quickly, with his first, a rather speculative shot from 35 yards, was easily saved. His second, off a ball from Chico, went just wide, wasting Swansea’s opportunity to once more take an early lead.

Everton, as is their want, tried to gain control through possession, but it was a penalty that gave them the lead with twenty minutes played. Chico brought down Ross Barkley as he got on the end of a lovely pass from John Stones. Leighton Baines was the man who stepped to the spot, sending a low, sharp shot to the bottom corner of the net. Michel Vorm guessed correctly but was unable to keep it out.

Yet the Swans managed to beat – or at least equal – Everton at their own game. Wayne Routledge did well to pick out Angel Rangel tearing up the right. The fullback squared for Bony, who this time had no trouble slotting home from close range.

The Toffees wasted little time in restoring their advantage after the restart, however. With less than ten minutes played in the second half, Romelu Lukaku shook off his marker before dashing on to meet Kevin Mirallas’ cross. From that range, the Belgian could hardly fail to score.

Five minutes later and Everton were ahead 3-1. As the corner came in, the Swansea defense determined Lukaku was their main threat, leaving Ross Barkley unmarked. The attacker slipped in to head home at the far post.

With over thirty minutes left to play, Swansea started to push. Tim Howard did well, flying through the air to deny Bony with just one hand. It was Pablo Hernández who set up Bony with a cross, and two minutes later he himself had a go, but Howard was quick enough once more.

Gary Monk then threw Michu into the mix, denying Bony the chance at a second. The Spaniard, just returned from a month out, hasn’t scored in the Premier League since September, and although his presence did liven up the Swansea side, he did little to challenge Howard in goal.

The visitors did manage another goal, however, in stoppage time. A corner taken by Hernández dropped favorably to Ashley Williams, who nodded in Swansea’s second.

Everton: Howard, Coleman, Baines, Stones, Distin, McCarthy, Barry, Mirallas, McGeady (Osman 85), Barkley (Naismith 84), Lukaku (Gerard Deulofeu 93)

Goals: Baines 20′; Lukaku 53′; Barkley 58′

Swansea City: Vorm, Rangel, Chico, Williams, Davies, Britton, Cañas (De Guzmán 69), Hernandez, Dyer (Shelvey 63), Routledge, Bony (Michu 70)

Goals: Bony 33′

Watch Live: Everton vs. Swansea City (Lineups and Discuss)

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Swansea look to put some distance between themselves and the relegation zone, but collecting three points at Goodison Park will be difficult, considering Everton have lost just once at home this season (Watch live at 11 a.m. ET online via Live Extra).

Falling out of Europa League was meant to help Swansea get back on track, easing their pressure in the Premier League. Yet the Swans are still just four point clear of the danger zone, having picked up only two points in their last four matches. Swansea looked to be in the driver’s seat last weekend when Roland Lamah scored within two minutes of kickoff, but fellow strugglers West Brom came back to steal a win with two goals in the second half.

Everton are seeking a chance to prove themselves in Europe next season, but need a third straight win to keep themselves solidly in the Europa League places. Currently the Toffees are sixth, three points above Manchester United but with a game in hand, and two points below Tottenham, who have a two-match advantage. Everton left it til late last weekend, frustrated by Cardiff closing ranks, but Seamus Coleman broke through in injury time to grab his side the win.

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Michu is still not fit enough to start, but that’s not stopping Gary Monk from making changes to the side that fell apart in the second half last weekend. Lamah drops to the bench, as do Jonathan De Guzmán and Jordi Amat. Nathan Dyer, Chico Flores and Pablo Hernández all start.

The hosts make two changes to last week’s winning side. Gerard Deulofeu and Leon Osman are on the bench, while Ross Barkley and Aiden McGeady start. Captain Tim Howard takes his place in goal while Romelu Lukaku spearheads the attack.

LINEUPS

Everton: Howard, Coleman, Baines, Stones, Distin, McCarthy, Barry, Mirallas, McGeady, Barkley, Lukaku

Subs: Joel, Deulofeu, Naismith, Osman, Garbutt, Alcaraz, Browning

Swansea City: Vorm, Rangel, Chico, Williams, Davies, Britton, Canas, Hernandez, Dyer, Routledge, Bony

Subs: Tremmel, Amat, Taylor, de Guzman, Shelvey, Michu, Lamah

Watch Live: Swansea City vs. West Bromwich Albion (Lineups and Discuss)

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Both Swansea and West Brom could use a result on Saturday, but it’s likely the visitors will be more desperate for points from the match at Liberty Stadium (Watch live at 11 a.m. ET online via Live Extra).

The hosts will be smarting after last week’s draw with Crystal Palace, as the incident that led to Palace’s penalty appeared to have taken place outside the area. But Swansea will need to simply shake off the cobwebs and move forward, as, with just 29 points, they’re only four points above the drop and are in serious need of a little cushioning.

West Brom, on the other hand, are even on points with 18th-placed Cardiff, although at least they have a game in hand. But considering Pepe Mel has yet to win a match since being appointed on January 9th, it’s tough to believe the rest of the Baggies’ season will be an easy one. But the visitors will have to do better than last week’s 3-0 lost to Manchester United…right?

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Chico Flores is out after seeing red last weekend, so it’s Jordi Amat that steps in. Up front, Gary Monk has tinkered with his attack some, keeping Wilfried Bony up top but replacing Pablo Hernández with José Cañas, as the former picked up an injury last week. It’s Roland Lamah in for Nathan Dyer, but the biggest news must be that Michu is back and on the bench.

Mel shuffles his lineup somewhat after last week’s poor showing. Victor Anichebe keeps his place up top, but Zoltán Gera drops to the bench, while Morgan Amalfitano and Chris Brunt are out. Instead it’s Stéphane Sessègnon and Graham Dorrans – getting his first start since opening day. Craig Dawson steps up in the back, James Morrison replaces Claudio Yacob and, from the way the Baggies wrote their lineup, it looks like Liam Ridgewell is playing in midfield. Anything is possible when you’ve got nothing to lose.

LINEUPS

Swansea City: Vorm, Rangel, Amat, Williams, Davies, Britton, Canas, de Guzman, Routledge, Lamah, Bony.

Subs: Tremmel, Tiendalli, Taylor, Hernandez, Emnes, Michu, Lita

West Bromwich Albion: Foster, Dawson, McAuley, Olsson, Reid, Morrison, Mulumbu, Dorrans, Ridgewell, Sessegnon, Anichebe

Subs: Myhill, O’Neil, Vydra, Gera, Berahino, Sinclair, Thievy