While neither would have enjoyed the weekend’s involuntary break for the FA Cup, Sunderland boss Martin O’Neill and Swansea City manager Michael Laudrup must otherwise be pleased with the recent runs their sides have put together.
Sunderland seemed set for a relegation scrap when they picked up just four points from a possible 21 in late autumn, but the Black Cats look to have turned it around with five wins from their last eight league games.
At the start of the Wearsiders’ troubled run was a Capital One Cup humbling against local rivals Middlesbrough, but while that competition brought strife for O’Neill, it has been the making of Laudrup’s first season at Swansea.
But having reached the Capital One Cup final, which they are sizeable 2/5 favourites to win inside 90 minutes, Laudrup must fear that it could prove a hinderance to their league form.
That potential for Swansea to take their foot off the gas leaves them as 7/4 second-favourites when they head to the Stadium of Light, with the home side 6/4 and the draw 9/4 in bwin’s 3Way football betting market.
Not that the Swans looked anything but on their game in their last encounter, pulling off a sweeping 3-1 win over Stoke, and with 16-goal Michu in their ranks they always pose a threat (the Spaniard is 11/4 to open the scoring).
However, the Swans’ away form has been less than sparkling, failing to score in three of their last four road matches, and O’Neill might fancy his team to take a tenth clean sheet of the season at 3/1.
The Black Cats have been fairly compact all campaign, with a lack of goals more often than not their main issue and with both not wanting a momentum-halting defeat, a goalless first half doesn’t look out of the question at 19/10.
That was far from how the reverse fixture back in early September panned out, as Swansea twice came from behind to secure a 2-2 draw – a repeat scoreline would see new customers using the free £20 bet they receive when registering with bwin win an impressive £280.
Yet with both sides now on better form, I fancy the return encounter to follow the pattern of the previous five Sunderland v Swansea matches (which average 1.7 goals apiece) and be a tighter affair.
A one-goal win either way seems most likely at 5/4, but home advantage and the lack of a Wembley trip to distract them leads me to favour Sunderland to just edge it, so I’ll be going with a draw in the 0-1 handicap market at 29/10.