Championship Preview: Middlesbrough V Cardiff City

Cardiff City have stormed into the play-off places after a winning run of six games. This weekend they will travel to their former manager’s team Middlesbrough, one of the teams now looking to knock City out of the top six.

In midweek Middlesbrough were beaten 3-1 at home by Bristol City, while Cardiff travelled to Bournemouth and picked up a 2-1 win. Middlesbrough were blown away in the first half against Bristol City as the Robins took a three-goal lead. Dael Fry got a late consolation for Boro’, who dropped down to ninth place.

Cardiff led two goals to nil after a dominant first half performance, with goals from Sean Morrison and a Kieffer Moore penalty. Shane Long, who came on as a sub, pulled one back for the host’s but despite forcing Cardiff in to defending most of the second half the Cherries were unable to find a second. The result meant Cardiff moved above Bournemouth into sixth place.

Team News

For Middlesbrough Ashley Fetcher has been ruled out of this game after pulling up in the early stages of the game on Tuesday. Yannick Bolasie and Marcus Tavernier have both been training but manager Neil Warnock has ruled them out of the visit of Cardiff:

“Tav and Yannick are both training, but we have to be careful with them,” Warnock said.

They are getting better, but with so many games coming up you don’t want to take unnecessary risks.

“Bolasie trained really well yesterday, and we’re going to have a meeting today to check up on him. Apparently he’s a week away.”

Former Cardiff winger Nathaniel Mendez-Lang could get his first start against his former club. The former Bluebird had his contact terminated on the eve of the season for what Cardiff called a “Serious breach of contact”. Information came out in January that he had twice shown traces of cocaine in his system resulting in two bans.

Cardiff will be glad that Joe Ralls will be in contention for the match after an ankle injury. Junior Hoilett is also available for the match squad but despite 60 minutes for the under 23’s this week Lee Tomlin is not fit enough yet for first team action. Jordi Osei-Tutu could be back for the 8th of March.

Recent Form and Past Meetings

Middlesbrough have lost five of their last eight, with just two wins. Despite the poor form they did manage a 2-0 away victory at Reading along with a goalless draw at leaders Norwich City.

Cardiff are unbeaten in eight games, having won six in a row. Four of these wins have come away from Cardiff City Stadium.

The teams drew 1-1 earlier in the season George Saville giving Middlesbrough a half time lead lead before Sheyi Ojo equalised. Prior to that The Bluebirds have won the previous four meetings.

The last win for the home side came in 2016. It may be a good omen for the hosts as that season they went on to finish second.

Managers Thoughts

Neil Warnock speaking ahead of the game against his former side:

“There’s probably one or two players there who I upset as well and no doubt tomorrow they’ll like to show me what they can do.

“But overall I took most of them there and I think they’ve got a great squad.

“I don’t think anyone will expect us to get anything with the form they’re in and then us getting beat the other night.

“But we’ve got to come up with a way of giving them a good game.

“I don’t think there are many teams at the moment who could beat Cardiff the way that they’re playing.

“I think they had 26% possession the other night against Bournemouth. All these people who want a certain style of football… well what about winning games and getting up the table like Mick has done?

“It’s the right way to go about it – winning games.

“We know we’ll have to contend with 10 long throws, 10 corner kicks and 10 free-kicks all coming in and we’ll have to cope with it or we’ll just be another notch on their gun.

“We haven’t got players the size of Morrison or Flinty but we have to find a way to cope with it. It’s all within the laws of the game.

“They’ve not lost a game since Mick came and they’re not going to change their style, and why should they? Mick’s not bothered about the beauty of football. He knows how to win games and that’s what football is about.

“Do you think Cardiff fans will be mad at him for all the long throws if they get to the Premier League? Course they won’t. It’s a fallacy all this style and what have you. Bournemouth had the style the other night but it was all in their own half!

“It’s up to us to find a way to cope with them.”

Cardiff Manager Mick McCarthy:

“We’ve got to travel up there, and I know we’ll be expecting a really tough game.

“They got beaten by Bristol City in midweek, so they’ll be wanting a reaction.

“I’m looking forward to the game. We’re all looking forward to the games because we’re winning them, and let’s hope that continues. If the players keep playing the way they have been, there’s no reason why we should be beaten.

“If anyone ever says one of my teams is nice to play against, I’d be annoyed and insulted. The best teams are horrible to play against, for whatever reason.

“Neil’s teams are likewise. If we came off on Saturday and I said to him: “You were really pleasant to play against”, I think he’d be as annoyed as I would be – and that’s not going to be the case.”

Key Players

Nathaniel Mendez-Lang could come back to haunt Cardiff. Cardiff’s players and supporters will know very well the quality of the winger. Neil Warnock was the man to bring him to City and knows how to get the best out of the player. He came play either side so Cardiff’s wing backs, Joe Bennett and Perry Ng will need to be at the top of their game.

The point of the attack and the first line of defence. Kieffer Moore’s contribution for Cardiff this season is about more than his 15 goals. Leading the front line and holding up the ball to play in players like Harry Wilson and Sheyi Ojo. But when they are without the ball Moore is the first line of defence pressing down defenders.

Prediction; Middlesbrough 1 v 1 Cardiff City

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