Capital One Cup win for Swansea City would bury Pablo Hernandez's Getafe cup heartache
HEN Pablo Hernandez sought advice on Wembley cup finals, he turned to an old room-mate. Luckily for the Swansea City winger, that man happened to be Juan Mata.
Hernandez and Mata used to room together when the two Spanish internationals played for Valencia, and the pair are still close friends having both joined Premier League clubs.
Lesser relationships might have become strained earlier this season, when Hernandez's Swansea side beat Mata's Chelsea in the Capital One Cup semi-final.
Fortunately, however, the two men were seen chatting and joking in the Liberty Stadium foyer following the Swans' triumph.
Among the teasing and joshing, Mata beckoned his former team-mate aside to wish Swansea well in the final and offer some advice.
That's because, last May, Mata was a part of the Chelsea side which beat Liverpool 2-1 at Wembley to win the FA Cup.
Now, with only League Two outfit Bradford City standing between the Swans and the Capital One Cup at the famous London arena, Hernandez is hoping to emulate his friend.
"I spoke to Juan after the semi-final against Chelsea," he says.
"After the game at the Liberty, we spoke for about half an hour about what a special day it is when you go to Wembley.
"Juan was a little angry because Chelsea had lost the semi-final but he told me he was happy for me and the Swans.
"Then he told me he thought we would win and he gave me some advice, so hopefully I can also get a winner's medal at Wembley."
Tomorrow's encounter will be Hernandez's second experience of a cup final, and the 27-year-old will be hoping it is a happier one than his first.
Hernandez appeared for Michael Laudrup's Getafe side which lost 3-1 to Valencia in the 2008 Copa Del Rey final — with Mata among the Valencia scorers.
Swansea's record signing recalls the match with a rueful look, but is hopeful tomorrow's fixture will have a happier ending.
"I played in the Copa Del Rey final in Spain for Getafe, where we lost to Valencia. I've played in big matches for Valencia, such as the Champions League.
"It is always important and special for me and the other players to reach a final. It's different this time. In Spain, I played for Getafe against my old side Valencia, who are a very big team in Spain. It will be a Premier League team against a team from League Two, but it's just 90 minutes between two sides so anybody could win.
"In Spain Getafe were the surprise in the final but, this time, Swansea are the big team and Bradford are the small team."
Getafe were the underdogs in 2008 but, as a top-flight Spanish side, they certainly entered the final with greater pedigree than Bradford will this weekend.
The Bantams' Capital One Cup run has defied the odds and dazzled the neutrals in equal measure this season, and Hernandez believes it is indicative of one of British football's best attractions.
"Here it's a little different," he says. "In Spain, it's more difficult to see a second or third division club reach a final.
"In England, it's possible. Teams from the lower leagues get to the semi-finals or finals. In Spain it's different because the difference between the teams is bigger.
"I like it here. I think it's better in England because the people, the fans of the smaller teams can enjoy the final."
Regardless of how warmly Hernandez may speak about the romance of a cup upset, however, the Spaniard will be delighted to ruin Bradford's fairytale and secure a win for Swansea.
"This week is special. It's not just a normal week — it's special for the club, the city and all its people," he says. "I think this is a special moment for everyone, and winning the cup would mean making history for the club.
"We will not change the way we play for this match.
"We play the same in every match.
"Bradford are a strong, direct team so it won't be easy but the Swans will play the same as always.
"During my time with Valencia, I was lucky enough to score at Old Trafford, which was amazing. Wembley is a big stadium full of history and it would be brilliant to score in the final.
"This will be a match to enjoy and help my team to win the final."