Looking Forward to Chelsea – Expect the Unexpected

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After it was confirmed Swansea’s opening 2015/2016 season game away at Chelsea will be shown live on Sky Sports, Fraser Watson looks back on the contrasting fortunes the club have endured thus far in their opening Premier League games.

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Two monumental wins, two harrowing defeats, an average of more than four goals per game, and three live TV appearances– it’s fair to say that the opening day of the season has never been quiet for Swansea City since being promoted from the Championship four years ago.

And sure enough, last week’s confirmation that their first game of the 2015/2016 campaign against champions Chelsea at Stamford Bridge, is to be shown by Sky Sports, will bring a wry smile to the faces of many Swans fans now accustomed to early season drama.

On paper, Garry Monk’s men will be clear underdogs against a Chelsea team who registered 15 wins and four draws in 19 home games en route to a fourth Premier League crown last season. But since Swansea reached the top flight, their starts have rarely gone to script.

It all began at the Emirates Stadium on a Monday night, on August 15th 2011, as the Swans took on a Manchester City side that later went on to win the title in dramatic fashion.

For 45 minutes, Brendan Rodgers’ side defied the overwhelming odds to go in goalless at half time, thanks to a string of saves from new signing Michel Vorm.

But the Swans were not without their moments with the ball either, displaying an intent to keep possession that went on to signify an impressive debut season.

In the second half, the firepower of City took over, and after Edin Dzeko broke the deadlock 57 minutes in, further goals from Sergio Aguero (2) and David Silva made for a slightly misleading 4-0 scoreline.

But if Swansea finished their first game rock bottom of the table in their 2011/2012 campaign, they finished the same fixture joint top a year later.

Michael Laudrup’s men went to QPR to kick off the 2012/2013 season after a summer of change at the Liberty Stadium, and there was much scepticism about their chances of avoiding the classic ‘second season syndrome’ following the departure of Rodgers in the summer.

Indeed, their visit to Loftus Road was widely seen as a clash as two prime relegation candidates – and to this day remains the only time Swansea have opened a Premier League season with a 3pm Saturday kick off, in a non-televised fixture.

But if it was Vorm who caught the eye that night at the Emirates, a new Swansea star was to emerge from his debut this time around.

Eight minutes in, new striker Michu opened his side’s account with a long range shot that squirmed under home keeper Rob Green.

The goal kick-started a dominant display from Laudrup’s side, and Michu struck a sublime second after the break before two goals from Nathan Dyer, and one from Scott Sinclair in what proved to be his last game for the Swans, made for a 5-0 rout.

A year later, and expectations were entirely different when Laudrup’s side hosted the then Premier League champions, Manchester United, at the start of the 2013/2014 season.

Swansea fans were optimistic about facing the Red Devils in the Saturday night fixture, following their League Cup success the previous February, and an impressive pre-season which saw them romp through their two Europa League qualifying ties.

The optimism proved misplaced, as David Moyes enjoyed a flying start to his Man United reign, with braces from Robin Van Persie and Danny Welbeck giving them a 4-1 win. The main bright spot for the Swans was a first league goal for new signing Wilfried Bony – but like their first season, they ended the opening weekend at the foot of the table.

However, one year on, the tables were well and truly turned, as Garry Monk took his side to Old Trafford and recorded a famous 2-1 win en route to a record breaking 2014/2015 season.

Prior to the Saturday lunchtime game, much had been made of the inexperience of Monk as a manager, and the supposed struggles his side would face against Louis Van Gaal’s team. But after Wayne Rooney cancelled out Ki Sung-yeung’s opener, Gylfi Sigurdsson bundled in a late winner to cause a major shock, and briefly put the Swans top of the Premiership summit.

So this time around, it’s a Saturday evening start for Monk and co, live on Sky Sports, in what appears the most difficult opening possible.

But if there has one thing the Jack Army have learnt about Swansea City and the opening day of the Premier League, it’s to expect the unexpected.

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