With safety near, Swans can experiment against Chelsea
Swansea City will face the toughest of their remaining five matches Sunday when Chelsea come to town. As far as the relegation battle goes, things might have to get worse for the Swans before they get better, but with all the teams below Swansea facing similarly tough matches, the Welsh club should be able to hold on to 15th place for now.
Sunderland, Cardiff and West Brom each face top-10 opposition in Everton, Southampton and Tottenham, whilst Fulham and Norwich play each other. A Norwich win could upset the Swans' apple cart, but the Felix Magath effect is starting to take hold in London. If Fulham use their home advantage to win, those points will help their cause without damaging Swansea's.
• Delaney: Analysing the relegation picture Beyond the weekend, Swansea should take heart that they face a comparatively soft schedule. Over the rest of the season, Swansea will face no further big-six tests, but each of the clubs below the Swans will. Cardiff and Fulham will play one big-six side each, West Brom and Sunderland will play three each, whilst Norwich will face nothing but big-six sides -- four in a row -- to finish their season.
Relying on other teams' results is the least impressive way to avoid the drop, but with Swansea having taken just a single point from winnable fixtures against Crystal Palace, West Brom and Hull, table-gazing is now an unavoidable pastime for Swans fans. After Chelsea, Garry Monk's men will have to win points off Newcastle, Aston Villa, Southampton and Sunderland. Those aren't the most intimidating opponents, but then neither were Palace, West Brom and Hull.
Come Sunday, it'll be especially interesting to see what Jose Mourinho makes of Monk. Swansea's interim boss hasn't been in the job long enough to have established a style of his own, or to have any tendencies for Mourinho to exploit beyond those already typical of the Swansea style. There is a sense that as an unknown quantity, Monk at least has the potential to surprise Mourinho, even if the Swans boss might understandably lack the courage to try anything particularly audacious.
However, if there was ever a good time for Monk to experiment, this might be it. Nobody is expecting Swansea to win Sunday. A draw would be a fine result, and given the way Swansea recently raised their game to take a point from Arsenal, that scenario isn't implausible, even if it seems improbable.
The loss is almost a formality in the face of Mourinho, one of world football's true greats. I'd rather see an unorthodox gambit fall flat than watch Chelsea inevitably open up an occasionally suspect Swansea defence and stroll away with the win.
What that gambit might be is another thing entirely. Predictability is the tradeoff for stability, and the Swans have seldom ever broken from their established 4-2-3-1 (or 4-3-3, depending on one or two very slight adjustments) since arriving in the Premier League. Something new at this point would just as likely confuse the Swans' own players as anyone else's.
Team selection at least remains one decisive factor. Monk has already experimented to a small degree by playing central midfielder Jonathan de Guzman on the wing. Against Norwich, the idea worked perfectly, with de Guzman netting two of the Swans' three goals. Against Hull ... not so much.
A return for Nathan Dyer seems like a good idea, whilst Pablo Hernandez has to be in consideration, not just because he's played well lately, but also because he netted a late equaliser against Chelsea in the same fixture last season. That might sound like grasping at straws, but as an underdog, Swansea need all the help they can get.
Speaking of which, perhaps Monk should consider starting that "own goals" fella. He remains the club's second-leading scorer, after all.