Belfast Telegraph

Swans clash is a cup final for City

Steve Bruce may be confident his Hull side have enough quality to avoid relegation but that has not stopped him labelling Saturday's clash with Swansea a "cup final".

It is, of course, a familiar cliche for bosses to fall back on when battling the drop but December is an early first outing for the phrase.

It is not hard to see where Bruce's sense of urgency has come from though, with a sequence of one Barclays Premier League victory in the last 14 matches dragging the Tigers to second bottom in the table.

A costly habit of conceding late goals, an apparent loss of solidity at the KC Stadium and an increasingly threadbare squad - ravaged by injury, suspension and Hatem Ben Arfa's lack of dedication - make for an unhappy blend.

And it is one Bruce knows must be changed sooner rather than later.

"This one's a cup final if we really want to put it down to that," said Bruce, who guided the club to last season's FA Cup showpiece at Wembley.

"It's a big game for us and a big opportunity. We've got to get a result, it's as simple as that. We've had an awful run of fixtures, with some awful injuries to go with it, but we have to forget about what's happened before and pick up a few points to get our season back up and running.

"It's a big, important time for us but there are a lot of clubs in the bottom half who'll be saying the same thing."

There is, then, no doubt that Bruce is taking Hull's predicament seriously.

But despite the straits they find themselves in, with Michael Dawson out for a month, question marks over Mohamed Diame's return to fitness and Tom Huddlestone starting a four-game suspension, Bruce remains optimistic.

"It's so close at the bottom and we know we're capable of winning a couple of games, so I don't think there's any need to panic yet," he said.

"It's been a frustrating season so far. We haven't won enough games and we've probably drawn too many but I'm still convinced there's enough quality in the squad to see it through and finish higher than last year (16th).

"Away from home our tally is more than respectable considering who we've played so it's about time we put our home record straight. We have two games in a week at home and it's a different complexion if we can go and get something out of those games."

Ninth-placed Swansea head to Hull on the back of two straight league defeats and the omens ahead of their trip to the Humber are not good.

They have failed to score on their three previous visits to the KC Stadium and a 1-0 defeat there in April ranks among one of their poorest performances under Garry Monk.

"Every team in this league is a different challenge, the way they set up and the different personnel and styles they have," Monk said.

"It's getting your team to concentrate on themselves but adjust enough to know where the threats are from the other team.

"I would imagine they're looking at this game to turn around their form.

"They've got a very experienced manager who will be looking at how to get them back to winning ways and we expect a very difficult game.

"Hull will be different to what we've played before, so the challenge for us is to perform well enough to take the points."


From Belfast Telegraph