Jan Molby

Hope springs eternal thanks to cup shocks

Jan Molby

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A Swansea-Bradford final probably isn't what Capital One had in mind when they decided to sponsor the League Cup, as it doesn't exactly have mass global appeal, but shocks like we have seen this week ensure people remain in love with the game and keep coming to stadiums.

To see Bradford eliminate a Premier League side over two legs gives supporters of other lower league teams hope that in the future they might get to experience a similar moment.

Certainly in terms of pure entertainment, we have been well catered for in the League Cup this season; it has been fantastic. There's even an argument that there is more romance in the League Cup than the FA Cup these days as we see more shocks in what has been regarded as the less prestigious competition.

The fact that Premier League teams are more inclined to rest players in the League Cup makes for a less predictable state of affairs. You see shocks regularly - even when you don't expect them.

Just look at Arsenal's astonishing loss to Bradford in the quarter-finals: for some reason you just can't imagine that happening in the FA Cup.

We have been treated to two shock finalists, but the competition as a whole has been exciting this season - especially games such as Arsenal's 7-5 win at Reading and Chelsea's 5-4 win over Manchester United.

The League Cup still lacks something in terms of capturing the imagination of the fans, though. It can be harder to get as excited about that competition as we do for others, which is a shame. It all really depends on who makes the semi-finals: if it is four big teams then it will hold mass appeal.

Ultimately, you can't build a cup competition on what we have seen this season, because at some stage you have to get back to normality and have the big clubs in the semi-finals and final. As a one-off it is great - such as when Porto beat Monaco in the Champions League final.

Now and again it is good to give people hope.

Hope is something Bradford will be counting on. Underestimate them at your peril, but the final looks to be almost a foregone conclusion. Swansea will not let this opportunity go, not one year after their big rivals Cardiff City failed to beat Liverpool at Wembley.

Swansea will be determined to take a trophy back to Wales for the first time since 192, and they should have the calibre of player to ensure there is no surprise. While they aren't going to entirely lose focus on the league, Michael Laudrup will ensure they are ready and willing to go on February 24.

They go about their business in a calm way, and nothing will faze them. I will expect Swansea to win on the day.

Even reaching the final is a massive achievement for both clubs, but perhaps even more so for Swansea, despite the fact they are the Premier League club. When you consider where they were 10 years ago - near the bottom of the fourth tier - it is a remarkable achievement.

A decade ago, Bradford were only recently out of the Premier League and their story has been a sadder one in the intervening time. They have suffered financial woe, but they have managed to galvanise themselves under a good manager in Phil Parkinson.

Possibly they rode their luck a bit on the way, but there's no doubt they deserve to be where they are after a campaign that has become a great modern cup story.

There's no doubting it has been a good season for the League Cup - but the FA Cup is still king. It still has the greater razzmatazz and is certainly helped in that regard by the fact that the final is played in May rather than January.

It feels like the grand conclusion to the season, even if in practice that isn't really the case anymore.

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