Weblog: The football punter

Swansea v Notts County preview

The lure of a trip to Sheffield Wednesday probably isn’t sufficient for either Swansea or Notts County to declare this FA Cup fourth-round replay the most significant match of their seasons, and that definitely plays into Kevin Nolan’s hands.

While the County boss has promotion from Sky Bet League Two at the top of his wishlist this money-spinning cup run has been a joyous bonus for everyone connected with the Meadow Lane club.

But it’s a competition that Carlos Carvalhal, Nolan’s opposite number, could definitely do without and the Portuguese’s team selection should reflect that.

Carvalhal drafted in his reserves for the first match, which ended 1-1, and with a massive showdown with Burnley to come on Saturday expect another sizeable reshuffle for this game.

Carvalhal would doubtless want to see his resurgent side’s seven-game unbeaten run extended. And it’s worth noting that their only two defeats in their last eight home matches were against Manchester City and Tottenham, so they are in unquestionably decent form.

But they don’t look like battering anyone, don’t score enough goals and this match isn’t at the top of Carvalhal’s list of priorities. Back County getting a one-goal start on the Asian handicap, where a defeat for the away side by a single goal would mean stakes returned.

Carvalhal has to manage his squad carefully after Leroy Fer and Wilfried Bony picked up injuries in Saturday’s 1-1 draw at Leicester that have ended their seasons. Nor can the Swans’ chief call upon new signings Andre Ayew or Andy King, who are cup-tied.

He’s set to give other key men a break which means that, just as in the first game, it’s possible that the County side will be made up of players who boast more Premier League appearances than Swansea’s.

There is a 55-place gulf between these clubs but that was precious little evidence of that in the first tie and County can be every bit as combative again in their biggest game of the season. Indeed, they won 1-0 at Championship outfit Brentford in the third round.

They warmed up for this encounter by thrashing Crewe 4-1 in front of a 17,000 crowd at Meadow Lane on Saturday and there’s a real team spirit at the club which has been fostered by Nolan. They look like a unit and they battle accordingly.

The win over Crewe ended a four-game winless run, though a worry is they have not kept a clean sheet in five.

Swansea, however, aren’t prolific scorers. Their three FA Cup ties to date have produced just five goals and they have scored only 12 goals in 15 home games this term.

They are the Premier League’s joint-lowest scorers on 19 and while there has been a clear improvement under Carvalhal, they still don’t look like a side who will overwhelm anyone.

Twenty of their 32 matches in all competitions have produced two or fewer goals.


Notts County +1 on Asian handicap

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Match in Focus

19:30 TODAY BT1

Mainz v Wolfsburg

Home Win Draw Away Win
Key stats
  • Mainz have lost just one of their last ten home games in all competitions
Expert verdict
Mainz earned a much-needed three points against Hertha Berlin last time out and they can add further impetus to their relegation battle with a victory over Wolfsburg, who parted ways with manager Martin Schmidt in midweek. Experienced coach Bruno Labbadia has taken over at the Volkswagen Arena but he's had little time to work with a squad who have won just one of their last 11 matches in all competitions.