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Apr 24, 2014

Safety on the horizon for Swans


The most intriguing Premier League season for some years keeps refusing to offer any resolution. Just when the relegation picture seems set, Sunderland go and beat Chelsea, or Cardiff surprise Southampton. It's the same at the other end of the table where former Swans boss Brendan Rodgers seems poised to bring the title to Liverpool (and steal 'manager of the year' plaudits from the more deserving Tony Pulis of Crystal Palace in the process), but will still have to win a few more games first. - Hicks: Bony brilliance can’t paper issues Swansea is concerned with the bottom of the table, though, where my maths says that if arch rivals Cardiff can beat Sunderland, they'll actually be helping Swansea even more than they'd be helping themselves. Assuming Swansea can beat Aston Villa on Saturday, a Cardiff win over Sunderland would mean that even if Swansea lose their last two games, they would almost certainly still avoid relegation on goal difference if nothing else (barring several implausibly enormous scorelines, of course). That's as close to mathematically guaranteed safety as Swansea have come this season. Of course, the Swans still have to beat Paul Lambert's sputtering Villa side for a possible Cardiff victory to have the desired effect. Villa haven't won in five games, and might be wary of being dragged back into the relegation picture themselves if their poor form continues. Swansea will once again be without Michu -- the Spaniard is likely to be out for the rest of the season at this point -- but Villa will be missing an equally important piece of their own, with Christian Benteke also out for the remainder. However, where Swansea's Wilfried Bony has ably picked up the goal-scoring slack left in Michu's absence, Villa appear to have no such saviour. Beyond Benteke, Villa's goal-scorer's list is even more anaemic than the Swans' list behind Bony, with Leandro Bacuna's five and Libor Kozak's three their next best Premier League goal totals next to Benteke's ten. Kozak is gone for the season too, which leaves Bacuna as Villa's most potent threat, although Swansea might be more concerned to see former Norwich man Grant Holt strutting his ample frame around the Liberty once again. Holt was a constant menace to Swansea during his time at Norwich, scoring four times in as many games between the sides over the past two seasons, and stirring up the locals with some embarrassing anti-Welsh banter and excessive goal celebrations. With that in mind, it's probably a good thing that volatile Swansea defender Chico Flores will be absent from the game as he continues to serve his two-game suspension for being sent off against Chelsea. Flores has not had his best season in Swansea whites, and Holt's the kind of player that could maybe provoke a nasty retaliatory tackle out of placid Leon Britton, never mind the Swans' Spanish bull. Last week, Swansea played fairly poorly at times and still came away from Newcastle with a 2-1 win thanks to a last minute Bony penalty. With an improved performance on home turf this Saturday, the Swans should be able to ride their superior form and superior squad to get the result. The nearing horizon of safety can only inspire the players at this point, and with the relegation trap door slowly inching into the rear view mirror, the players might once again begin to play with freedom.

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