by Edward Seaman
Cardiff City and Swansea City go head to head on Sunday in what is the Premier League’s first all Welsh match up since it’s founding in 1992.
The occasion will be a momentous one for Welsh football and both sides will be desperate to claim the win over their nearest rivals, in their first meeting in the top division in history.
It is the first time the two sides have met since February 2011, when a Craig Bellamy goal sealed a 1-0 win for Cardiff, who at the time were in pole position for promotion to the Premier League.
As it was Norwich pipped them to the second automatic spot and Cardiff had to suffer play-off heartbreak as first they lost in the semi finals to Reading and then as they had to watch Swansea dispatch of Nottingham Forest and then Reading, to reach the Premier League.
Tomorrow will be their first meeting since.
The game highlights serious progression in Welsh football as just 10 years ago, both were languishing in the lower regions of the Football League. The story of Swansea’s last day escape from dropping out of the football league has been told plenty of times in recent years but the road to the top flight of Cardiff City has been a struggle too.
For many years the nearly men in the Championship. Losing a play-off final to Blackpool as well as semi final defeats including the one previously mentioned against Reading.
Cardiff will be looking to emulate Swansea’s success in the Premier League. Under Brendan Rodgers and now Michael Laudrup, the Swans have progressed into a top class side, winning the Capital One cup last season and as a result playing in Europe this term.
There are a number of other side plots to the game too.
It will be the first time the sides have met since Cardiff controversially changed from blue to red at the beginning of last season, a move which highlights the fraility of modern football and club ownership.
Another, Cardiff manager Malky Mackay, through no fault of his own, has found himself in a strange position as the Cardiff board begin to make changes around him. In fact, Mackay has led Cardiff to a reasonable start to their first Premier League season, picking up on average a point a game.
A win against their nearest rivals would see them leapfrog Swansea and in 12th place.
The two managers are also no strangers to local derby’s. Laudrup, having played for both Real Madrid and Barcelona, as well as Juventus will understand the pressures that come with this type of game. More modestly, Mackay has featured in Old Firm as well as Old Farm derbies, scoring twice for Norwich in a 3-1 win against Ipswich in 2004.
Both sides also have key Welsh players amongst their ranks. The game doesn’t mean more to anyone than Craig Bellamy, a recently retired Wales international and a Cardiff City supporter, he scored the winner the last time the two sides met and will be desperate to do so in the first top flight encounter. He will come up against the likes of former Wales team mate and Swansea captain Ashley Williams as well as the likes of Neil Taylor.
Whatever the outcome, it will be a game in which both sides of the Welsh rivalry will never forget.