Two clubs looking to make up for disappointing years in league play will hope to keep their FA Cup dreams alive in a fourth-round matchup.
Swansea City got off to a great start in the FA Cup by defeating Manchester United 2-1 in Round 3. Unfortunately, they are going through a difficult stretch in the English Premier League with only one point in the last six matches.
Of course, all five losses were against the opponents currently in seventh place or better in the league table. They should be able to find much more success against inferior competition.
Meanwhile, Birmingham City have only managed to reach 17th in the Championship table thanks to some poor performances against some of the weaker clubs in the league. They reached this phase of the tournament thanks to a 3-0 win over Bristol Rovers, but this next match will be a challenge.
Still, either side is capable of pulling off a win in this competitive battle to advance in the FA Cup.
Who will win?
When: Saturday, Jan. 25
Where: St. Andrews Stadium, Birmingham, England
Time (U.S.): 10 a.m. ET
Time (U.K.): 3 p.m. GMT
Odds (via SkyBet): Swansea (Even), Birmingham (11-4), Draw (12-5)
Top Storyline: Can Swansea Turn Their Season Around?
A year ago, Swansea finished a respectable ninth in the EPL while also winning the Football League Cup. However, things are not going as well this time around as the squad sits in 15th place, just three points out of the relegation zone.
As previously noted, though, many of the club's troubles can be traced back to the schedule, which has featured some tough competition. Max Hicks of ESPN FC writes that things will be better in the coming weeks:
If Swansea continue to play as well in their next four matches, and against lesser opposition than they've recently had to endure, they ought to win. The small difference in quality means that shots that have been deflected, blocked or saved against the league's top sides should translate into goals against those at the bottom. Likewise, the superior class and killer instinct which has seen top opponents maximise their limited opportunities will be missing.
However, you still have to question the mindset of the players after seeing this much negativity on the pitch. There already was a heated exchange between Chico Flores and Gary Monk, and things could get worse with more losses.
Manager Michael Laudrup discussed this incident with the mindset that things will be better in the future. According to Independent.ie, the coach recently stated:
We have to look forward and say sorry. We have to move on, that's the most important thing. These things always come in difficult moments, and we are in a difficult moment, we have to admit that.
If you win four in a row, even if team-mates raise voices and say not nice things to each other, it is not a story as there are so many positive things to talk about.
It is true that winning can solve all of these problems, but more losses will simply exacerbate them. A loss to Birmingham could end up being devastating for the club's hopes this season.
Prediction: Swansea 2, Birmingham 1
Birmingham do have a victory over Swansea City this year as they secured a 3-1 win in the Capital One Cup in September. The second-division club certainly wants to repeat this as they will once again be at home at St. Andrews Stadium.
However, Birmingham have surprisingly not been all that effective at home this year, winning only two of their 13 matches in league play. They have been earning draws, but they cannot afford to go on the road in a replay; they will instead be more aggressive to try to win at home.
This will unfortunately lead to more opportunities for Swansea to score against an inconsistent defense. Wilfried Bony has been an effective scorer as of late, and he has the ability to come through if given the opportunity.
On the other hand, Birmingham will be even weaker than at the start of the year after key players Jesse Lingard and Dan Burn returned to their EPL clubs after loan spells. This will negatively affect the club on both ends of the pitch, and it will be hard to pull off the upset.
Swansea need to gain some momentum with this match, and they will accomplish that with a solid road win.
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