In most cup finals, Swansea City would represent the lovable underdog that neutrals are cheering for. They've won plenty of lower-division honors, but this is their first ever major cup final. Bradford City, the real underdog in this situation, are just as historically successful as Swansea. They've spent two seasons in the Premier League and they won the FA Cup back in 1911, but they're very far removed from their top flight days of just over a decade ago.
Bradford are currently mid-table in League Two and are struggling enough financially that they're not certain to accept a bid to the UEFA Europa League if they triumph in the League Cup final on Sunday, simply because they can't afford the travel costs. Television matches against Arsenal and Aston Villa, as well as television revenue from the final. part of a gate from Villa Park and their cut of ticket sales for the final have brought millions of pounds into the fourth division club, but that money has acted more as a stabilizer than anything else.
Despite their solid historical standing in English football, they've finished in the bottom half of League Two for three straight years, and haven't qualified for the promotion playoffs since dropping down to English football's fourth tier. While they have an excellent chance to make the playoffs this season, and they made it to the semifinals of the Football League Trophy, they can hardly be considered a club on a rapid rise. Besides this incredible run to the League Cup final, they've been on a slow, but steady ascent this season. They're really not supposed to be here.
Once again, Bradford will take the pitch on Sunday to face a superior opponent. Swansea are the fourth Premier League side that Bradford will have faced, and they are considerably stronger than the Wigan and Aston Villa sides that made things hard on Bradford. They rested some key players last weekend in a Premier League match against Liverpool, a week before this game. Unlike Bradford's previous three opponents, they are narrowly focused on winning their trophy. It is not a secondary competition, but their main concern. Because of that alone, they're likely to be the toughest side that Bradford have faced in this competition.
There's no reason to predict that Bradford will win on Sunday, but there wasn't any reason to predict that they would get to this point. Predictions are pointless at this point, as they keep defying the odds. It wouldn't be stunning to see a thrashing by Swansea, nor would it be too surprising to see Bradford pull off one more upset.
Bradford injuries and suspensions
Out: Andy Gray (cup-tied). In doubt: Rory McArdle (ankle).
Swansea injuries and suspensions
Out: Chico Flores (ankle), Neil Taylor (ankle).
Gray is ineligible after playing for Leeds earlier in the League Cup. McArdle has started in every League Cup game for Bradford and would be a big loss if he isn't declared fit to play. Swansea's defensive depth is looking a bit shaky, as Flores failed to get fit in time for the final. Taylor is a long-term absentee.
Match date/time: Sunday, 4 p.m. local, 11 a.m, ET
Venue: Wembley Stadium, London, England
TV: Sky Sports 1 (U.K.), beIN Sport (U.S.)