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Swansea City 1 v 3 Bristol City
SkyBet Championship
Saturday, 27th February 2021 Kick-off 15:00
Defensive conundrum for Cooper & Marsh before Bristol City game. Ryan Bennett ruled out
Friday, 26th Feb 2021 16:20 by Keith Haynes & Martin Hyde

Injuries are taking their toll, especially during games with Kyle Naughton battling for fitness after being taken off on Wednesday night and Ryan Bennett definitely ruled out and continuing to recover from a calf strain. Both injuries have come in game time in recent weeks. With Wayne Routledge and Liam Cullen also injured during recent matches - as well as Jordan Morris, out for the season, options are becoming limited in the Swansea City squad.

A decent January window for Cooper has helped somewhat, his midfield options are good with Paul Arriola arriving from D.C. United along with forward Morgan Whittaker from Derby. The swans main concern is the centre of their three man defence. It is almost certain if Naughton fails to respond to treatment the line up this weekend will see Ben Cabango, March Guehi and potentially Joel Latibeaudiere lining up with the trusted wing backs of Conner Roberts and Jake Bidwell. However, let’s not forget Cooper’s wild card choice, Kieron Freeman has been brought in as a defensive option, his experience in these situations are not in doubt, at Sheffield United he was a key player in their promotion to the premier league. He would though be far more comfortable in a back four.

Kieron Freeman is a ready made replacement for Naughton in a back four

That defensive five though isn’t a bad choice, but it does lack experience which is why Cooper will be sweating on Naughton, possibly requiring another week or so, unless of course the dice is rolled and he gets included despite his injury. That could easily back fire as Ryan Bennett, as an example, has been substituted twice in games over the last few weeks at half time. If Naughton starts and is injured again it obviously isn’t ideal. However, positively with the five subs rule it could be a possibility if he responds well to his fitness test tomorrow morning.

Joel Latibeaudiere ready to step up to start

Steve Cooper - on Kyle Naughton "He played on with it for a while. We don't know to be honest. There's nothing very obvious to the physio, that's for sure. "Grimesy is fine. I know he went down, and I was a bit worried for him but he's absolutely fine now. I think he had a bang to his shoulder. I guess it was a knock that he shook off. He played well tonight on Wednesday by the way. I thought he was excellent. He did both sides of the game really well. Benno ( Ryan Bennett ) is out for a couple of weeks.

Much has been said about the role of Conor Hourihane in the starting eleven, almost impossible to drop due to his dead ball delivery and goals, his midfield defensive ability is a question mark. It seems it’s more about his inclusion and how that can be managed with the players around him than dropping him to the subs bench. On Wednesday evening the swans did look more solid in midfield with the second half addition of Jay Fulton and fit again Korey Smith, however the damage had already been done by Hourihane, again from an excellent set piece delivery. That seems to be an indicator of what may come again for the Bristol City game, get ahead, manage the match and see it out with the battling qualities of Fulton and Smith later on in the ninety.

Yan Dhanda did show glimpses of his talent as well against Coventry City so Cooper and co will have to make a decision on Dhanda or to bring back Fulton in the starting eleven. Matt Grimes is currently in excellent form, on Wednesday he drove forwards with the ball on numerous occasions finding space and his team mates with accurate passing. This surely makes him undroppable for this match as well.

There is a possibility that Hourihane can play off either Jamal Lowe or Andre Ayew giving one of the forwards a rest, or at least a later start. If that becomes an option Lowe could expect to be benched and Hourihane and Ayew given the forward responsibility. In that case Grimes, Fulton and Smith for me should start. It’s a more dogged midfield, capable of breaking up play and creating space for Roberts and Bidwell going forwards. Arriola is still on the extremities of match day selection, no doubt he has ability and pace, but it’s where best to employ him in Cooper’s preferred 5/3/2.

Hourihane, most certainly better on than off

It would possibly be a long shot, however reverting back to a 4/4/2 is an option. That would nullify Cooper’s centre back pairing headache. He could select Guehi and Cabango, and stick with Roberts and Bidwell in a defensive four. Swans fans are also keen to see the adaptable Ryan Manning getting more game time, he is a defensive option but prefers a more dominating role in midfield. Again it is an option but it’s fitting Manning in to a midfield role that becomes the issue.

The keeper situation picks itself, Freddie Woodman is fast improving in all his penalty area decision making. Punching and catching the ball are vastly improved areas of his game, and his alertness and quick reactions have seen him pull off some astonishing saves this season. It has been noticeable too his concentration on set prices and throughout the ninety are improved as well. Not forgetting his ability in saving penalties. Woodman, if fit is a dead cert. It wouldn’t be wise to drop him, he is a confidence player who craves selection every week.

Freddie Woodman season stats make him undroppable

We can’t expect too many selection surprises as the swans will view every home game as three points, and any dropped points from here on in will affect their drive for the automatic spots massively. What is your view, we must never forget the younger options available to Cooper but is this really a game to introduce those younger players ?

Freddie Woodman in fine form

Bristol City news - As for the Robins former Swan Alfie Mawson, Andreas Weimann, Callum O’Dowda, Jay Dasilva, Cameron Pring, George Nurse, Tommy Rowe, Chris Martin, Nathan Baker and Hakeeb Adelakun are all out. Famara Diedhiou will be assessed after taking a knock in his side's 3-1 win over Middlesbrough while Henri Lansbury is expected to return after an Achilles issue. A quick return to Swansea for Kasey Palmer as well, recently recalled by the robins part way through his loan spell at the Liberty, and he is expected to start.

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