Swansea City's Kyle Bartley will be devastated if he loses battle for Wembley place
KYLE Bartley admits he will be "massively disappointed" if he loses the battle for a place in Swansea City's defence at Wembley this weekend.
Chico Flores has still not been officially ruled out of the Capital One Cup final after flying to Barcelona for intensive treatment on his ankle.
But the reality is that Flores is unlikely to be ready to play just a fortnight after suffering significant ligament damage.
And that means there will be a vacancy at the heart of Michael Laudrup's back four on Sunday afternoon.
With Alan Tate seemingly out of the first-team picture right now, it looks like a straight fight between Bartley and the much more experienced Garry Monk to fill Flores's boots.
And Bartley has fingers crossed that he has shown enough quality in his first few months as a Swan to convince Laudrup that he is the man for the job.
"I hope I've done enough to be involved," says the 21-year-old.
"It's a massive game and it's one that I want to play in.
"The reason I came to Swansea was because I wanted to play games and I'm not going to lie, I'll be massively disappointed if I'm not playing on Sunday."
Unless Flores makes a remarkable recovery, Laudrup faces a big selection call.
Does he go for Monk, the wise old campaigner who has led Swansea out under the arch before, or Bartley, the rising star who is desperate to make his mark at a Premier League club?
It would cap a fine turnaround for Monk should he get the nod, for there was a spell at the start of Laudrup's reign when he seemed sure to be heading out of the Liberty Stadium.
The new manager said from the outset that the club captain would struggle to get into his team and that he would be allowed to move on if he wished.
But Monk dug in and vowed to impress Laudrup — and he has managed that whenever called upon this season.
Bartley, meantime, has shown his promise since completing a £1 million move from Arsenal in August, although his contribution was affected by an early-season thigh injury.
Like Monk, Bartley has not let anyone down when he has been drafted into Laudrup's team this term.
The only time either of them has really suffered, in fact, was when they lined up together at Liverpool last Sunday.
With Ashley Williams on the bench to ensure he will be right for Bradford City, Monk and Bartley were paired in central defence.
And despite their efforts, Swansea came away from Anfield licking heavy wounds after suffering the club's heaviest defeat since 2002.
"It wasn't ideal," Bartley concedes, "because I am trying to win a place for next weekend.
"But I'll assess my performance and see what I can improve.
"Whenever you concede five you've got to look at yourself as a central defender.
"We'll have a look at what we can do better and hopefully it won't happen again."
Swansea were humiliated on Merseyside, where Daniel Sturridge and Luis Suarez had a field day against opponents who were second best from the off.
But to point the finger of blame solely at Swansea's central defenders would be wrong, for the team unit let the away supporters down.
"We weren't at the races at all and I don't think we got into second gear," Bartley says.
"You can't play like we did against a side like Liverpool and expect to get a result.
"Making seven changes didn't help us, but you have to take responsibility as an individual.
"I don't think many of us did that."
Bartley reckons the first thing Swansea must improve against Bradford is their attitude.
"We'll go into the game as favourites but we have to make sure we do what we didn't do against Liverpool and that's give 100 per cent effort," the former Arsenal youngster suggests.
"If we don't play at 100 per cent we could get beaten, but if we turn up with the right mentality then we should get a positive result.
"You've got to try to take the positives from every negative. Last Sunday was a bad day for Swansea City Football Club but maybe it will be a wake up call for next week.
"We'll go into the game knowing we have to have our heads on and that we need to give 100 per cent."
Bartley would be making only the fifth start of his Swansea career should he get the manager's vote at the weekend.
Like many members of Laudrup's squad, the Stockport-born powerhouse has never featured in a senior cup final before.
But Bartley has played at Wembley before — as part of an England youth side against Spain in the early days of the new stadium.
"It finished 1-0 and I'd snap your hand off for the same again on Sunday," he says.
Swansea will start as strong favourites to triumph against opponents who lost to the Football League's bottom club, AFC Wimbledon, last weekend.
But Bradford have already beaten Wigan, Arsenal and Aston Villa en route to the final, and Bartley believes Swansea will have to be shrewd if they are to stop the Bantams' charge.
"100 per cent Bradford deserve to be in the final," he says.
"They've had a little bit of luck along the way, but every side needs that in a cup competition.
"They will be going into the game confident they can beat us having already beaten three Premier League teams.
"We'll need to be clever. First and foremost we have to give 100 per cent and, if we keep to our style of football and the way we like to play, I think we should be okay."