Earlier this week first Swansea City then Reading booked their places in the playoff final, to be played at Wembley of the 30th of May. With both side on the brink to playing in the Premier League next season a closer look at their credentials is required.
Swansea, who finished third in the Championship, defeated Nottingham Forrest in an enthralling encounter on Monday night. The tie finished 3-1 on aggregate; a nil-nil draw in the first leg meant it was all to play for at the Liberty Stadium, and in a closely fought encounter, Swansea’s quick two goal salvo midway through the first half proved to be the turning point.
The Swans’ have played with swagger all season; their manager Brendan Rogers, who was fired by Reading in 2009, goes by the mantra of ‘penetration with possession’. Swansea’s slick attractive brand of football led them to 24 wins in th3e league, a feat only equalled by champions Queens Park Rangers. However they lost 14 games, more than any other side in the top seven. Despite this they possess the second best defensive record in the Championship.
The Welsh side have been on the rise in recent years; former manger and current Wigan Athletic boss Roberto Martinez masterminded the revival building a side that played to the European model of attractive football philosophy. In Martinez’s first season (2007/08) his side comfortable won League One and when on to establish themselves in the Championship. Under Paulo Sousa last season the Swans’ narrowly missed out on the playoffs, but the addition of new manager Rogers has pushed the club the closest it has been to top flight football for 28 years. Their brand of aesthetically pleasing football would be a welcome addition to the Premier League.
Reading overcame Cardiff City on Tuesday night, trashing The Blues 3-0 in Cardiff. Irish front man Shane Long was the hero, scoring twice in the first half. It was a highly efficient performance from the Royals, who are hoping to return to top flight football after three seasons in the second tier.
Reading are the form team of the Championship and their run to the playoffs is quite remarkable; back in February they sat in 12 place, though they form had been gradually picking up after a slow start it was then that the club when on a run of nine wins in ten games to put themselves in playoff contention, and the team from Berkshire ultimately finished 5th.
Shane Long has been a been at the heart of the Reading revival, scoring 25 goal this season; Long is a much improved player after a disappointing return of only 6 goals in 31 games in the league last term. Long’s contribution won him the clubs player’s player of the year award but other player like veteran left back Ian Harte and QPR loane Mikele Leigertwood have performed at a high level.
Swansea may place the prettier football of the two teams but come into the game on Monday the 30th the Royals are the form side (Reading having claimed 23 points from their last ten games to Swansea’s 17)- Looking at past playoffs; only once in the last 15 years has the side with worse form triumphed. Reading will be hope that history will repeat and they’ll be making a return to the top flight after three seasons away.