The FourFourTwo Preview: Hull vs Swansea
A game that will seem far more significant in six weeks' time.
Although both teams enter this match on 33 points, two wins away from securing their Premier League status for another season, their respective mental states will be quite different.
- Stoke 1-0 Hull (Prem)
- West Ham 2-1 Hull (Prem)
- Hull 2-0 WBA (Prem)
- Hull 0-2 Man City (Prem)
- Hull 3-0 S'land (Prem)
- Swansea 3-0 Norwich (Prem)
- Arsenal 2-2 Swansea (Prem)
- Everton 3-2 Swansea (Prem)
- Swansea 1-2 WBA (Prem)
- Swansea 1-1 Palace (Prem)
A 4-0 win at Cardiff towards the end of February should have been the beginning of the end of Hull’s relegation worries. Yet they’ve taken just three points from their five games since. That run has seen them hammered 4-1 by Newcastle, smothered by the 10 men of Man City, suckered-punched by a limited West Ham and frustrated by an improving Stoke. Their only positive result was the 2-0 win over West Brom.
Has their FA Cup run been a distraction? Perhaps. Battling on two fronts is something Steve Bruce and his players will need to learn to live with quickly, especially as a win over League One Sheffield United in next weekend’s FA Cup semi-final will quite likely secure a place in next season’s Europa League.
Fortunately for Swansea, their form appears to be picking up since dropping out of that very competition – the return of the mercurial Michu after a four-month lay-off has also helped, of course. A point at the Emirates was welcome, but a first win since February 8 was what they really craved, and they got it when Norwich visited the Liberty Stadium last weekend. The gloom appears to be lifted, and this may be a good time to travel to Humberside, with the Tigers possibly having at least one eye on Wembley.
Nikica Jelavic and Shane Long both being cup-tied may actually work in Hull’s favour here – the pair should both be fully focused on league matters, and are more than capable of scoring the goals that can help their new employers avoid an embarrassing slide.
You’d have to fancy the winner here will be all but over the line, with the loser still to suffer a few more sleepless nights. With some tricky fixtures to come, particularly in Hull’s case, this is more of a ‘must win’ game than it may seem.
Hull will be without goalkeeper Allan McGregor, who will miss the rest of the season with a kidney injury picked up at West Ham. Veteran Steve Harper will deputise between the sticks. Paul McShane (ankle), Robbie Brady (groin) and Maynor Figueroa (knock) are all facing a race against the clock for fitness.
With Michu back, Swansea are pretty much at full-strength, although Kyle Bartley remains hamstrung.
Player to watch: Nikica Jelavic (Hull)
The Croatian may not have hit the ground running on Humberside in quite the same fashion as he did on Merseyside, but four goals in 11 matches is certainly not to be sniffed at, particularly at a newly promoted club.
Jelavic may not have been famed for his aerial ability during his time at Everton, but Hull clearly see him as an outlet for long balls. During the recent win over West Brom, no player passed the ball to Jelavic more than goalkeeper McGregor (7), with the forward winning 5 of his 9 aerial duels. That direct route should in theory ease the pressure on playmaker Tom Huddlestone. The former Tottenham man should not be required to drop deep to collect the ball as often, and therefore be free to adopt a position higher up the pitch.
LAST FIVE MEETINGS
- Swans 1-1 Hull (Prem, Dec 13)
- Swans 1-1 Hull (Ch'ship, Apr 11)
- Hull 2-0 Swans (Ch'ship, Aug 10)
- Swans 2-1 Hull (LC, Aug 08)
- Swans 2-3 Hull (Div 3, Apr 04)
Should Hull boss Bruce need further evidence of the importance of being able to keep multiple plates spinning, he only need look towards the visiting dugout this Saturday. There, he’ll see rookie coach Garry Monk barking out instructions, rather than the generally more sedate Michael Laudrup. The Dane was given the sack in February as the Welsh side struggled with the duel burdens of domestic and European football. The pair have, unsurprisingly, never gone toe-to-toe as managers before.
Facts and figures
Hull have lost 4 of their last 5 matches, while Swansea have lost just 3 of 15 trips to bottom-half sides
7 of Hull’s 8 home matches this season against bottom-half teams have produced fewer than 3 goals
13 of Swansea’s last 17 trips to bottom-half sides have seen fewer than 3 goals
Hull's blossoming strike pairing to seal an important three points. 2-1.