League Two Bradford City take on Swansea City in the Capital One Cup Final.
Swansea City coach Michael Laudrup says his side should have no concerns about being branded favourites ahead of their meeting with fourth-tier Bradford City in Sunday’s English League Cup final.
Swansea will be appearing in their first major cup final, but their achievement pales in comparison to that of Bradford, who have eliminated three Premier League sides en route to Wembley Stadium.
League Two Bradford are the first team from the English fourth division to reach the League Cup final since Rochdale in 1962 and Laudrup says Swansea must be prepared to shake off their own underdog mindset as a result.
“I would think if you go back, it’s very rare to see a major final between a small team in the top flight and a team from the lower leagues,” said the Dane.
“When teams from lower down get to the final, it is normally against Manchester United, Manchester City, Chelsea, Arsenal, Tottenham or Liverpool — like when Birmingham played Arsenal (in 2011).
“This is different because although we are one of the lower teams, we have to accept we are favourites and we must take the initiative in the game.
“We have no problem with that and we accept the majority of people will want Bradford to win as they are the underdogs.
“We have seen what they have done to Wigan, Arsenal and especially to Aston Villa over two legs.
“It is fantastic. If you say what we have done is a fairytale, then the fact Bradford are there is a huge fairytale.”
Laudrup also confirmed that Spanish centre-back Chico Flores will not be available to play at Wembley after he ruptured ankle ligaments in the 4-1 league win over Queens Park Rangers on February 9.
“Chico tried today (Thursday) to go out and train, but it was much too early, we all knew that,” said Laudrup.
“It is an injury you would normally estimate to be out for four to eight weeks and this Saturday would be two weeks.
“It is such an important game, but today he realised it is much too soon and he has to accept the fact.”
In Flores’ absence, Kyle Bartley and club captain Garry Monk will vie for the right to partner Ashley Williams in central defence.
Laudrup also revealed that German second-choice goalkeeper Gerhard Tremmel will continue between the posts, having been preferred to first-choice custodian Michel Vorm in Swansea’s previous games in the competition.
Bradford manager Phil Parkinson insists his League Two underdogs can pull off one of the all-time great giant-killings when they face Premier League side Swansea in the League Cup final on Sunday.
Parkinson’s team have already eliminated three top-flight teams on the road to Wembley and the minnows are confident of adding Swansea to an impressive list of scalps that includes Arsenal, Aston Villa and Wigan.
Swansea are firm favourites to win the trophy, but former Charlton boss Parkinson sees no reason why his collection of unheralded journeymen can’t upset the formbook one more time.
With Bradford currently 11th in English football’s fourth tier, Parkinson’s team have only slender hopes of a promotion challenge, so the City boss is happy to admit he is focusing all his attention of winning at Wembley, which would bring not only the club’s first major silverware since the 1911 FA Cup but also a place in next season’s Europa League.
“All along the league has been our priority. I cannot hide away from that,” he said. “But we are in the final at Wembley and have a chance of getting into Europe.
“So I can honestly say now, if we had the choice of two things, it would have to be winning the cup.
“We are a League Two team. We have created history by getting this far. It would be truly amazing if we could pull it off.”
While Parkinson would love to lift the trophy this weekend, he acknowledges that Bradford’s long-term stability and growth is more important after years of financial problems following the club’s relegation from the Premier League in 2001.
“The chairman has done a great job clearing the debts but now it is their job – and mine – to ensure this extra revenue is used to keep improving the structure of the club and make sure our supporters have a club that will flourish in years to come,” Parkinson added.
“As much as we want to enjoy this weekend, it is really important this revenue is used wisely. I am sure it will be.”
Darby, McHugh, McArdle, Good
Atkinson, Jones, Doyle, Hines
Rangel, Williams, Tiendalli, Davies
Routledge, De Guzman, Britton, Dyer
This will be the first match between Bradford and Swansea in a major cup competition.
The Swans are unbeaten in their last four league encounters with the Bantams, all of which came in League One.
However, three of those matches were drawn.
Bradford’s last win against Swansea was a 5-1 victory at Valley Parade in the third tier on 30 March 1996.
The Bantams are the second side from the fourth tier of English football to reach the League Cup final. Rochdale also managed the feat in 1962, losing to Division Two Norwich over two legs, although that was during the League Cup’s infancy, when many of England’s elite clubs declined to enter the competition.
Victory would see Bradford become the sixth club from outside the top flight to win the competition, following in the footsteps of Norwich (second tier, 1962), QPR (third tier, 1967), Swindon (third tier, 1969), Aston Villa (second tier, 1975) and Sheffield Wednesday (second tier, 1991).
Bradford have kept clean sheets in only two of their last 15 League Cup ties.
They have won nine consecutive penalty shootouts – an English record.
The Swans have reached the final of the League Cup for the first time in their history. Prior to this season they had never gone beyond the fourth round of the competition.
Michael Laudrup’s men have won twice in eight league and cup games since booking their place in the final.
Swansea’s most recent defeat against League Two opposition was a 3-1 loss to Shrewsbury in the second round of the League Cup last season.
They have kept clean sheets in their last three League Cup matches. They have gone 284 minutes since they last conceded in the competition.
15/2 on Bradford City to beat Swansea City: Capital One Cup Final Betting