Cardiff V Swansea at Cardiff City Stadium : Match Preview
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Mackay ready for derby fixture
Cardiff manager Malky Mackay knows there is no way Sunday's south Wales derby can be considered just another game.
The Bluebirds face off with their fierce rivals Swansea at Cardiff City Stadium, in a game which has been eagerly-awaited by both sets of fans and will have the eyes of a huge global audience fixed on it.
The Scot admits there is no point in trying to downplay the significance of the fixture, and it is one he is looking forward to.
"It's not just another game and I would be lying if I said that," he said.
"It's only three points and it's another Premier League team coming to the stadium, but there is a lot of importance attached to the game as it's the first time we have played each other at the top level in the Barclays Premier League.
"It's very special for everyone in south Wales, and ourselves and Swansea so it has absolutely got a little extra bite to it and that's something that helps people.
"I know the passion of our fans and what the atmosphere in our stadium is like but I don't think it is going to touch the sides of what we will feel Sunday, it will be an incredible atmosphere when the players walk out.
"I think it is something all our fans have looked forward to since we were promoted and it does hold that extra special edge."
The Bluebirds enter the game on the back of a tumultuous few weeks which have seen Mackay's head of recruitment, Iain Moody, dismissed and replaced on an acting basis by 23-year-old Kazakh Alisher Apsalyamov.
Apsalyamov has no known experience in top-level football and Press Association Sport understands he is not currently operating for the Bluebirds in an official capacity, but retains the position while the Home Office investigates his work permit situation.
Mackay does not believe the issue will have an effect on Sunday's game, but when asked if the Apsalyamov situation surprised him, he said: "Nothing surprises me, it's just something the chief executive can get on with and deal with. Nothing surprises me, my focus is on my team."
He added: "We have waited 51 years to get to this position and be in the Premier League. I won't let anything else get in the way of that.
"There is a lot of stuff going on around about it, but my job is to manage the team, be proud of my players and prepare them in the best way possible, so myself and the staff and players are focused on the routine of the week.
"If you don't have that and take your eye off it and start thinking about other matters, that's when you get punished and I won't let anything else get in the way of my determination to do the best for the club on the pitch."
Craig Bellamy is set to return to Cardiff's starting line-up and take the captaincy.
Andreas Cornelius (ankle) is expected to remain out but Craig Noone should be available after an ankle problem of his own.
Swansea manager Michael Laudrup has Ashley Williams fit to lead his side but will be without winger Pablo Hernandez (thigh).
Ben Davies (ankle) will again miss out but Jonjo Shelvey has shaken off a hamstring problem.
Laudrup admits the south Wales derby does not have the prestige of El Clasico, but that does not mean the Dane cannot appreciate the game's importance.
The very presence of Laudrup in the Swansea dugout is a sign of just how far they and the Bluebirds have come over the last decade, with both rising from the lower reaches of the Football League pyramid.
Laudrup's illustrious playing career saw him play in some of Europe's biggest derby clashes, including Barcelona v Real Madrid, Lazio v Roma and Juventus v Torino.
Sunday's 106th south Wales derby will be the first to take place in the top flight of English football, and the fixture lacks the global appeal of the Spanish clashes which Laudrup graced so brilliantly.
But the Swans boss said: "Of course you can appreciate it, because it's not about how big it is on an international or world level.
"I think I can make an argument that Real Madrid-Barcelona is, worldwide, the most important game you can watch at the moment, but that doesn't change how you can feel about this game.
"Football is about emotions and feelings and for the fans of that club you can never say it is not the most important derby.
"That is the same wherever it is, it doesn't change because it is a derby and the fans from those two clubs have those feelings and those feelings don't change wherever you are in the world."
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