Read Mike Holden's thoughts on Sunday's FA Cup third round tie between Oxford and Swansea.
Ordinarily, this kind of tie wouldn’t be a prime candidate for a giantkilling. Much like the Swans, Michael Appleton’s men are technically proficient and keen exponents of a possession-based philosophy, so you’d normally expect the extra quality of a Premier League side to shine through on a tidy surface in fairly hospitable surroundings.
However, the Yellows have been playing so well over the festive period, it makes you wonder whether the gap between the two teams, at this very moment, is actually all that great. Over the past three matches, Oxford have racked up a staggering 68 attempts, scoring seven goals in the process, and when you witness some of the quality of their finishing, the standard of the opposition doesn’t really matter. The U’s have goals in them.
In Kemar Roofe and Callum O’Dowda, the League Two side boast two attacking players who, at the very least, should be playing their trade at Championship level - and might well be doing so before the month is out. With speculation rife about potential moves in the January window, it would be win-win all round if either player could deliver something special on this stage.
Either way, Oxford have plenty to look forward to for the remainder of the month. They return to action on Thursday for the televised first leg of their Johnstone’s Paint Trophy southern area final against Millwall, which is then followed by crucial league games against promotion rivals Bristol Rovers, Portsmouth and Northampton, all of which means there’s no time to feel sorry for themselves in the event of defeat here.
Swansea have reacted to some uncertainty over their next manager by appointing Alan Curtis on a permanent basis until the end of the season and the Welshman will be under no illusions that preserving the club’s Premier League status is the number one priority, so he might be tempted to make changes.
Based on the evidence of the past five matches, the team appears to be in capable hands from a coaching perspective but the subtleties of management, like squad rotation for a game like this, might be where he comes up short. It’s one thing knowing who needs a rest but, in these scenarios, an inexperienced manager always runs the risk of upsetting the equilibrium.
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