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Page last updated at 12:30 GMT, Thursday, 5 November 2009

So near yet so far for Welsh rivals

Coca Cola Championship - Swansea City v Cardiff City
Venue: Liberty Stadium Date: Saturday, 7 November Kick-off: 1245 GMT Coverage: Full commentary on BBC Radio Wales and Radio Cymru, live text commentary online and score updates on BBC Radio 5 live. Extended highlights on The Football League Show on BBC ONE Wales at 0005 GMT on Sunday. Live on Sky Sports 1

Jay Bothroyd celebrates and Garry Monk makes a challenge

By Peter Shuttleworth

Just 42 miles separates south Wales' football rivals, but in many ways Swansea City and Cardiff City could not be further apart.

Not since the mid 1960s have the Welsh neighbours played so regularly in the dizzy heights of the Football League's second tier.

And Saturday's highly anticipated Championship derby looks set to be an intriguing chess match of clinical brilliance versus defensive resolution.

The division's top-scorers visit the second meanest defence - who have conceded just 10 - to decide in front of the glare of the television cameras who is the footballing daddy in the land of my fathers.

Swansea boss Paulo Sousa and Cardiff manager Dave Jones
Sousa played in the Milan derby and Jones played in the Liverpool derby

High-flying Cardiff are the physical power-houses of the Championship, the streetwise alley cats whose free-scoring football papers over their defensive deficiencies - and their 31 goals has helped fire them to within sight of realising their Premier League dream.

The Swans, meanwhile, are the division's lowest scorers, scoring just 11 times in 15 games, but their division-high clean sheet record of nine has helped them to a nine-match unbeaten run that is the best in the Championship.

Paulo Sousa has not abandoned the footballing philosophies that won Swansea so many admirers under Roberto Martinez last season.

But Swansea have added a stubborn bedrock to make up for their lack of fire-power since Jason Scotland and Jordi Gomez followed Martinez to the Premier League and Wigan Athletic.

Michael Chopra has scored as many goals as Swansea's whole team put together this season but Cardiff's top scorer is suspended for Saturday's game.

Joe Allen leads Swansea City's celebration after their 2008 Welsh Cup win  over Cardiff City
It was always a tasty encounter even at youth level; there were tears if we lost and celebrations if we won

Swansea City midfielder Joe Allen

And Sousa will be doubly concerned if the visitors to the Liberty Stadium score first as Cardiff have the division's joint best record when taking the lead while the Swans have not won yet this season when they have gone behind.

Sousa may be forgiven for wondering what all the south Wales derby fuss is about as he prepares for his first taste of the fixture.

After all, he was a distinguished international who graced the Lisbon derby - for both Benfica and Sporting - the Milan derby for Inter, the Turin derby as a Juventus player and was at Espanyol when they faced Barcelona.

But Joe Allen, the youngest member of Sousa's first-team squad, has reminded the Swansea manager of the game's local importance.

The Wales midfielder joined the Swans academy aged eight and the local boy did good when he scored in last season's 2-2 draw at Ninian Park.

"It was always a big game for us when we were kids as when we came up through the age groups for Swansea we played them quite regularly, he said.

"It was always a tasty encounter even at youth level - there were tears if we lost and celebrations if we won.

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"But nothing compares to the real thing, even for someone like me who has been around Swansea for so long. It is an experience that everyone involved will keep with them for the rest of their lives."

Cardiff versus Swansea meetings used to be a highlight and a welcome distraction from the two clubs' battle for Football League survival when they struggled in the bottom division.

But even at a time when both regularly face some of British football's most famous clubs on a weekly basis and have bigger goals of top-flight promotion, it is clear that this derby still means something.

And Saturday's showdown promises to be the most complete south Wales footballing spectacle for almost 50 years.

So bearing in mind all of their contrasts, it is a case of so near yet so far, but oh so good.

* Catch Sport Wales' south Wales derby preview on BBC TWO Wales on Friday at 1900 GMT



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see also
Bothroyd's taunt to rival Swansea
05 Nov 09 |  Cardiff
Probert to ref south Wales derby
04 Nov 09 |  Championship
Cardiff's Jones wins manager gong
07 Nov 09 |  Championship
Welsh rivals keen for derby calm
04 Nov 09 |  Championship
McCormack takes over from Chopra
03 Nov 09 |  Cardiff
Ledley ready to shoot down Swans
03 Nov 09 |  Cardiff
McPhail missing for three months
10 Nov 09 |  Cardiff
Chopra gutted to miss Welsh derby
02 Nov 09 |  Cardiff
Jones pleads for Welsh derby calm
23 Oct 09 |  Championship


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