Swansea v Cardiff
Saturday February 8, 17:30
Live on Sky Sports 1
What a turbulent week it's been for the Swans.
Parting company with the previously lauded Michael Laudrup and replacing him with club captain Garry Monk, who has no managerial experience and was reportedly attacked by brick-wielding centre-half Chico Flores just two weeks ago.
Last weekend's dismal 2-0 defeat at West Ham was the final straw for chairman Huw Jenkins, who was reportedly fuming after Laudrup gave himself and his squad two days off following a defeat that leaves Swansea just two points above the relegation zone, albeit in 12th position.
Monk's men come into this richly important showdown having won just one of their last ten Premier League games, but that record, especially at home, is slightly misleading to my judgement.
They have had to face Tottenham, Manchester City and Everton at the Liberty Stadium in recent weeks but their form at home against sides in and around the relegation scrap has been good. The Swans have yet to lose a game at home this season against a side in the bottom ten, recording wins against Sunderland and Fulham.
The locals will still be smarting after the historic 1-0 victory in the reverse fixture earlier this season but apart from that famous day there has been little to cheer.
Malky Mackay's sacking by chairman Vincent Tan was handled with the class of a pickpocketer and their rather fortunate 2-1 over Norwich last weekend was Cardiff's first win in eight league games.
New gaffer Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has been backed by Tan in the transfer window and if he can continue to get the best out of his new signings Kenwyne Jones and Wilfred Zaha, whose combination play won the game for the hosts last weekend, then Cardiff will win more games than they lose in the run in.
Home advantage is always crucial in a derby environment and with the fascinating angle of club captain Monk taking the reins you can guarantee that the fans at the Liberty Stadium will back their team a little more ferociously that they would have if Laudrup, who had lost the faith of many Swan aficionados, was in charge.
I'm a big believer in backing teams who have appointed a new manager in his first home league game in charge as both players and fans unite together on a point proving mission.
Swansea are trading at [1.89] for victory, which is a little disappointing considering their recent form, but it's hard to recommend any other wager in the match odds section.
Cardiff, who can be backed at [4.9], have lost eight of their 12 away games in the league this season and have scored just seven goals along the way.
The draw is a [3.7] chance.
Having been let off the Premier League rota last week following his diabolical card happy performance in Manchester City's 5-1 win over Tottenham (one red, five yellows), referee Andre Marriner is back on top table duty and will be tasked with keeping a lid on the most important south Wales derby in history. It looks a tall order.
Marriner obviously impressed the assessors last weekend when taking charge of the Sheffield Wednesday and Barnsley clash, despite sending off three players including Emmanuel Frimpong on his Tykes debut.
His liking for a card or two suggests that this predictably spicy clash may get ugly in terms of booking points. Marriner is by far the strictest referee on the 18-man Premier League rota this season, having dished out 10 red cards in total, four more than any other ref. Furthermore, he isn't afraid to lay down a marker early in games by bringing his yellow card out to play. Only Phil Dowd (98) has booked more players in the Premier League.
With Monk issuing a rallying cry in his first press briefing for the club to unite and promising to strip things back to basics, you can expect the hosts to play with much more fire in their bellies than we've seen in recent weeks.
"We are all in this together - and I will make sure we stick together. That is what Swansea City has been all about for as long as I can remember," Monk said.
All the ingredients are in the mix for a very bitty game in what is likely to be a poisonous atmosphere, with both teams' supporters given ample time to booze up beforehand given this is an early evening kick-off (17:30) and Wales take on Ireland in the Six Nations earlier in the day.
Booking points are calculated at 10 points for a yellow card and 25 points for a red. Two yellow cards leading to an automatic red will score as one yellow and one red card. With the line set at 45pts, the game looks a stone cold banker to surpass that figure when the market becomes liquid. Maximum stakes are advised.