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Page last updated at 15:31 GMT, Thursday, 2 April 2009 16:31 UK

Welsh rivals are upwardly mobile

Venue: Ninian Park Date: Sunday, 5 April Kick-off: 1100 BST
Coverage: Full commentary on BBC Radio Wales and Radio Cymru and second half commentary on BBC Radio 5 Live, live text commentary online and score updates on BBC Sport website. Live on Sky Sports 1

Ross McCormack and Jordi Gomez collide
Cardiff's Ross McCormack and Jordi Gomez of Swansea sum up the rivalry

By Peter Shuttleworth

Wales' national team have endured an uncomfortable week in football, but a tough few days in a success-starved nation conclude with arguably the biggest club game in Welsh football history.

Cardiff City and Swansea City have gone head-to-head 152 times since their first meeting, a 1-1 draw, in Southern League Division Two at the Vetch Field on 7 September 1912.

The Premier League trophy
Cardiff and Swansea have long fantasised about the Premier League, the mega-rich big league which always seemed so far away, but with a few good results in the next few weeks, reality could some become stranger than fiction

Yet perhaps none has been bigger than Sunday's showdown at Ninian Park, a fitting final South Wales derby at Cardiff's famous old home.

"Every angle you look at it, this will be a huge football occasion," insists Swans boss Roberto Martinez.

"It is not just the last derby at Ninian Park but both clubs are fighting for a top six position which is outstanding and something people tend to take for granted.

"It is something Wales should be proud of. Both teams are playing well and it should be a positive advert for Welsh football."

The arch enemies - whose rivalry is among the most hostile in British football - have contested Welsh Cup finals and important league games when promotion, relegation and play-offs have been at stake.

None of the previous meetings have been more important than 1980s post-Christmas games in the then Division Two - now rebranded as the Championship - when a point apiece played a crucial part in both clubs' seasons.

John Toshack's Swans won promotion to the top-flight on goal difference while Cardiff survived the drop on goal difference.

Cardiff and Swansea have long fantasised about the Premier League, the mega-rich big league which always seemed so far away, but with a few good results they could turn dreams into reality.

CARDIFF v SWANSEA RECORD
Dave Jones and Roberto Martinez
League wins: Cardiff City 16, Swansea City 18
FA Cup wins: Cardiff City 0, Swansea City 1
League Cup wins: Cardiff City 2, Swansea City 3
Total wins: Cardiff City 18, Swansea City 22, draws 15

Dave Jones' Bluebirds have occupied one of the four play-off places virtually all season and with two games in hand on their rivals, dreams have every chance of coming true.

Martinez's brand of football, with both style and substance, has inspired the Swans to the brink of of the play-offs in their first season back in the English football's second tier.

The end-of-season Championship play-offs have a habit of including one surprise package that gallops in from nowhere and a morale-boosting win on Sunday for a Swansea team that has stuttered of late, could inspire a fairytale ending to their season.

The ultimate prize is a potential mouthwatering £60m jackpot and an invitation to the world's richest and highest-profile league where the superstars of Manchester United, Liverpool and Chelsea await.

After years in the lower leagues, lurching from one financial crisis to another with the all-too-familiar fear of closure and playing in some of English football's most unattractive outposts, both Cardiff and Swansea can almost touch the top-flight.

"It is not often in derby games when there will be two winners whatever the outcome," continued Martinez, who has never experienced the South Wales derby atmosphere at Ninian Park.

"It is the biggest derby for a long, long time and is a positive derby in terms that there is a lot to win, there will not be no losers.

606: DEBATE
clingondrum

"It is a chance for the teams to express themselves and show how far they have come in a short space of time as we both chase the dream of bringing Premier League football to South Wales."

However much both sets of supporters are loathe to admit it, Cardiff and Swansea have very similar recent history.

Both have come back from the brink of administration, have climbed from the Football League's bottom tier to the verge of the top and have - or will have - swapped their dilapidated old ground for impressive new homes.

"Both clubs have every right to be proud of themselves and excited about the future," continued Martinez.

"Sunday's game will be a proper football match where at the end of the game, both teams will have a lot to smile about."

Unlike many of the previous 49 league meetings, this half-century is more than about local bragging rights and little else - there is a bigger picture, that is the big league dream.



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see also
Tate appeals for 'right spirit'
02 Apr 09 |  Swansea
Cardiff City v Swansea City (Sun)
02 Apr 09 |  Championship
Swansea 2-2 Cardiff
30 Nov 08 |  Championship
Swansea 1-0 Cardiff
23 Sep 08 |  League Cup


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