Two of the in-form teams clash in the Championship this weekend as Cardiff welcome Watford to Welsh Capital. Cardiff are on an eleven game unbeaten run, while Watford have won six of their last seven.
The Bluebirds stunned Watford in December when 1,973 fans were allowed in Vicarage Road, winning 1-0 from a Kieffer Moore goal. Watford sit second in the table with eyes on automatic promotion. Cardiff have emerged as play-off contenders following an upturn in form.
Having won their last two home games against Derby and Preston both by four goals to nil, Cardiff City Stadium has been a happy hunting ground again for Cardiff. Another impressive 3-1 win against Coventry making it three straight home wins.
Watford lost their last game on the road 1-0 at Bournemouth. The Hornets, however, have picked up previous wins against Blackburn and Preston.
Lee Tomlin and Jordi Osei-Tutu will not be a part of this match squad for Cardiff but Perry Ng, who missed Cardiff’s trip to Huddersfield is possible for a return. Tom Sang came in for that game and performed well so could get another start. Joel Bagan suffered a dislocated shoulder will also miss out. With Joe Bennett out as well it means a possible start for Ciaran Brown.
Dan Gosling and Achfraf Lazaar will have fitness tests ahead of the trip to Cardiff. Troy Deeney and Tom Cleverley will both miss out with Cleverley possibly returning following the international break. Nathanial Chalobah is available after suspension.
Mick McCarthy was glad of an extra break this week having played on Friday last weekend.
“It’s been unusual actually but it’s been good for the players and for us as well because we had the weekend without a game.
“It was a real intense schedule, certainly as we ended up playing Wednesday-Saturday, Tuesday-Friday. It was good for them all to get a bit of a break and they’re all feeling a bit fresher and a bit sharper. Hopefully that will benefit us on Saturday.
“They are second in the table, playing well and have the ability to grind out one-nillers as they don’t give much away. Yet they’ve got some flair players too.
“So, if we can win this game, that would put us in a great position and give us a whole lot more confidence if we beat second in the league – but there’s a lot of ifs there!”
“We know we need to go there like gladiators, play very hard and give our best, with power, intensity and ambition.
“We know what we need, it’s not easy the numbers they have. It’s excellent work from their coach, we have big respect for him. It’s important everybody knows this next game is an amazing challenge for us because we want to break this situation for them.
“Our team now has more time on the ball, creates more chances to score. We know we need to stay alert and pay attention with set pieces and we need to give them more problems. We have our style and our players and we’re hungry every game to take the points”.
Prediction: Cardiff 1-0 Watford
This a game for Cardiff’s style of play. Having had an extra rest Cardiff’s attacking three should have the fresh legs for the high intensity press that has seen the Bluebirds rack up three home wins and score eleven goals.
Coventry City will visit Cardiff City Stadium this weekend to face Cardiff. The Bluebirds have seen a upturn in form since the arrival of Mick McCarthy having picked up two wins and two draws. Coventry have one just one of their last six matches. Cardiff are six points ahead of the Sky Blues in the table.
Coventry won the reverse fixture in November by a goal to nil. Tyler Walker got the goal in the game at St Andrews. This was Coventry’s first win against Cardiff since a 1-0 win in 2007. In between these games Cardiff have won eight of the meetings between the sides.
Cardiff are unbeaten since McCarthy took over in January. Two draws have been followed by two away wins against Bristol City and Rotherham. This will be McCarthy’s second home match and will be hoping to make it three wins in a row.
Coventry held Watford to a goal less draw in their last match. This followed a 2-1 home defeat to Nottingham Forest and a draw with landlords Birmingham City. Coventry sit three points above the drop zone.
Mick McCarthy has said new signing Jonny Williams will not be ready for the weekends match. Alex Smithies will also miss the match, he is still suffering from the illness which forced him off against Bristol City. Leandro Bacuna, who was not in the squad for the trip to Rotherham is fit and could return this weekend. Jordi Osei-Tutu and Lee Tomlin are still out with injuries.
Coventry Live reported on the clubs long injury list. Tyler Walker is set to return to the match squad for the trip to Cardiff after a calf strain. Goalkeeper Ben Wilson has finished isolating and will be available. Amadou Bakayoko is also likely to be back in the matchday squad. This match will likely come to soon for captain Liam Kelly who should re-join the squad on Monday. Fankaty Dabo and Matty Godden are longer term injuries and will not be involved.
“It’s a big challenge, that’s for sure, they’ve got aspirations of getting into the top six, they’ve not long been out of the Premier League.
“Mick’s is a really experienced manager, a great bloke, a really top man and he’s got a wealth of experience, you can see results are coming from his leadership at this moment in time.
“He’s unbeaten to date and they’ve got a squad full of talented players, it’s a tough match, but a really good game in the lead up to the next three games because all three are tasty games.
“His Ipswich team were a tough nut to crack; they were physical but had some really good quality as well and always made it difficult.
“The players at their disposal, he’s going to make good use of them, and you can see that now, it’s a really good game for us to look forward to and try and get our teeth stuck into.”
For Cardiff’s game to work they rely on striker Kieffer Moore who has netted 11 goals so far this season. Winning 11 aerials per game the striker links up with Cardiff’s attacking midfielders Harry Wilson and Sheyi Ojo. Moore is currently ranked number one in the championship by whoscored.com. The Bluebirds have not lost a game in which the welsh striker has scored.
Gustavo Hamer will be a key figure for Coventry as the defensive midfielder will have to deal with the inform Cardiff number 10’s. Hamer has five goals and two assists so far this season and will be a danger for Cardiff as well. He has a pass percentage of 74.6 and a whoscored.com rating of 7.06.
Prediction; Cardiff 2 – 0 Coventry
Cardiff have found a new system under McCarthy that seems to suit the players and should have the quality to see off the Sky Blues.
SinceI last wrote about Nottingham Forest quite a lot has changed, not at least their manager, new signings departures, and a new style of play. All of these were done with the right intentions and looked like positive changes at the time, and still yet maybe, but have resulted in a poor start to the season which leaves Forest languishing towards the wrong end of the table.
The managerial change was half expected as Sabri Lamouchi’s positive spell in charge declined dramatically towards the end of last season and even more so with 4 defeats to start the new campaign. Sabri had brought positivity and hope back to Forest Fans and left with a message of thank you from the fans. His replacement’s record in the Championship is second to none and I believe his availability and willingness to take the job contributed to the change. It seems like Chris Hughton must have been in discussions with Forest for a while before the change as it was announced almost immediately after Lamouchi’s departure.
The nature of forest’s signings were along the lines of Hughton type players, by this I mean experienced quality championship players. Anthony Knockaert was the only official signing made by Chris but the likes of Luke Freeman, Harry Arter, and Cyrus Christie fit this mould. Knockaert is in my opinion a top Championship winger whose delivery cannot be beaten at this level and Houghton got the best out of him at Brighton. He also tried to bring in Kamil Grosicki, a player forest have been linked with ever since January, however, after a long wait they discovered last Thursday that the deal was completed marginally past the 5 pm transfer window deadline. When you look at the squad it’s very strong and the strongest I’ve seen at Forest for about 10 years.
So what’s gone wrong?
Firstly there was a massive hangover from the failure of getting into the playoffs when it seemed certain they would. Then came the uncertainty over the manager’s future during the break and then big changes to the playing and coaching staff. I think the squad has changed too much over the summer break, last season was based on a tight-knit group in which Ben Watson, Thiago Silva, and Matt Cash played a big part. Loosing these 3 is a big blow, their replacements of Jack Colback, Luke Freeman, and Cryus Christie have been good, but the team spirit and togetherness takes time. When you add 13 new players to a squad with a good spirit you risk changing the togetherness and getting a squad that is too big and not everyone feels involved. I would have much preferred to have kept as much of the same squad together as possible and adding extra bits of quality. For example, the signings of Cafu and Fouad Bachirou in particular seem unnecessary.
There has also been a change in the style of play to get used to, Lamouchi stated he wanted to add more creativity and attacking options to the side which he did by bringing in Freeman and Lyle Taylor. But to achieve this a less compact defensive was attempted and this ultimately failed and cost him his job.Hughton is adopting a similar approach with the team playing much higher up the pitch and trying to control possession more than last season. This is ultimately the style of play fans want to see however it will take time to change and perhaps a more pragmatic approach is needed to get results on the board to build confidence.
Games are staring to come along quickly as the Championship rolls on. Readings good form continues as they lead the table. Bristol City remain second but there are just four points between them and 14th placed Huddersfield.
East Midlands Derby
Friday night saw the East Midlands derby between Nottingham Forest and Derby County. It was the 108th meeting of the long time rivals.
The two side were up for this game, Lyle Taylor shot forcing a good save from David Marshall. Marshall’s opposite number Brice Samba was also tested in the first half. Graeme Shinnies curling shot met by the diving hand of the Forest Keeper.
It was Derby who scored first after 30 minutes. Martyn Waghorn’s with a free kick the self-isolating Wayne Rooney would be proud to claim. Waghorn lifted the ball over wall and it clipped the inside of the bar to go in the net.
Derby thought they had won it when some clever footwork from Tom Lawrence allowed him to slide a ball into Jozwiak who found the net. Jozwiak wheeled off in celebration but the assistant’s flag was up. Waghorn in an offside position was deemed to be interfering with play.
Forest Manager Chris Hughton told BBC Radio Nottingham:
“I wasn’t too happy with the first half performance. I thought we needed to be better on the ball and our movement needed to be better against a team who were happy to defend in a really good shape”.
After seeing his side second goal ruled out Phillip Cocu told BBC Radio Derby:
“I don’t see any offside. The goalkeeper reaches for the corner where the shot goes, so the view is not blocked. The frustration is quite big here”.
Reading Go Five Clear
Championships leaders Reading won their sixth game of season clinically beating Rotherham 3-0. Reading took the lead towards the end of the first half though Yakou Meite.
The striker doubled the home side lead on 74 minutes, with an overhead kick. From a corner he control the ball with his chest before performing an overhead kick into the top corner of the net. A good win was finished in stoppage time with a Lucas Joao penalty.
Reading manager Veljko Paunovicsaid:
“What we saw in our team was the consistency of getting the job done, doing your job for the team. You also have to be patient, have a strong mentality and not get frustrated if our game plan is not working. And don’t ever give up”.
Rotherham drop to 18th place and manager Paul Warne told BBC Radio Sheffield:
“We were away from home against top of the league and had lots of possession in the first half and we were the only side that played on the front foot. We passed the ball really well without creating enough clear cut chances and obviously for them to score the first time they were in our box was a massive sucker punch”.
Mepham Saves a Point
Late drama as Chris Mepham’s 94th minute goal saved a point for Bournemouth. Watford had lead since the 12 minute from Stipe Perrica’s first goal for the club.
Bournemouth’s Lloyd Kelly was lucky to only see a yellow card for his poor challenge after just two minutes. Lunging in late on Ismaila Sarr catching the Watford player above the knee.
Watford’s goal came after Sarr’s ball across the box from the right was met a sliding Perrica who simply directed the ball into the net. Ismaila Sarr had the chance to make it too but his shot was stopped by a strong right hand from Asmir Begovic.
Begovic kept his in it again saving from Quina before quickly pushing the ball away from Pedro. Bournemouth pressed for an equaliser but found resilient Watford defencing and a in form Ben Forster.
Josh king saw his late header turned over the bar by Forster. However Bournemouth got their reward from the corner. Forster punched the ball away but the return ball in the box was turned in by Mepham.
The draw means Watford stay in 3rd and Bournemouth 4th.
There were away wins For Blackburn (4-0 v Coventry), Luton (1-0 v Sheffield Wednesday) and Preston (2-1 v Huddersfield) on Saturday.
Coventry were reduced to 10 men after 14 minutes with Michael Rose receiving a straight red for a push in the box. Adam Armstrong scored from the spot. Armstrong got a second after 49 minutes getting on the end of Brereton’s though ball. Harvey Elliott made it three on 62 minutes assisted again from Brereton. Rovers wrapped up a fine display with a fourth on 88 minutes from Sam Gallagher.
Sheffield Wednesday remain bottom after a 1-0 home defeat to Luton. Wednesday’s Joost van Aken saw red for a reckless high challenge. The hatters took advantage of the extra man to get the win with Pelly Ruddock scoring on 74 minutes.
While they can’t win at home Preston are still unbeaten on the road. Frazier Campbell’s 8th minute goal gave Huddersfield a half time lead. A curling effort from Alan Browne levelled the game on 51 minutes. Just two minutes later Browne found the net again. This time looping a soft punch from the keeper back into the goal. Naby Sarr got a red card for pulling down Riis Jakobsen.
Stoke up to 8th
Stoke stormed into a 3-0 lead after an hour. A free head for Steven Fletcher after nine minutes, was followed by a James McClean low shot into the near post. On the hour mark Tyrese Campbell made it three cutting inside to the edge of the box and curling a shot into the far corner. Brentford pulled two back thanks to sub Marcus Forss but Stoke held on to take their unbeaten run to seven games.
Norwich got their third straight league win after beating pointless Wycombe 2-1 at Carrow Road. Timo Pukki gave Norwich the lead early on. Scot Kashket got the goal that got Wycombe level after some poor Norwich defending. Wycombe may have thought they had their first championship point but there was late drama. Mario Vrancic 91st minute free kick went straight into the top corner with the Wycombe wall seamingly rooted to the floor. Adam Idah was shown a red card for appearing to push Joe Jacobson to the floor.
Middlesbrough left Cardiff with a point on Neil Warnock’s first visit to Cardiff City Stadium since leaving the Bluebirds. It was a classic Warnock display from Boro’ who set out early to slow the game and frustrate Cardiff. The visitors took the lead with George Saville’s header lopped in the Cardiff goal. Cardiff took the game to Boro in the second half but could not find the final touch. Their hard work did get them level with Sheyi Ojo second goal since signing from Liverpool.
Jamal Lowe smashed in on 51 minutes to give Swansea the lead at Ashton Gate. It was his second goal for Swansea. Putting it in off his left foot turning towards goal. Bristol City equalised from a Nahki Wells penalty. Conner Roberts judged to have brought down Semenyo Antoine just inside the area. A soft penalty but dispatched down the middle with power from Wells. The result sees Bristol City remain in second and Swansea in 6th.
At The Den two goals in two minutes at the end of the first half saw Millwall and Barnsley share the points. Alex Mowatt stunning volley from the edge of the area gave Barnsley the lead. Just a minute later Jake Cooper rose above everyone else to head home for Millwall.
A goalless draw at The Kiyan Prince Foundation Stadium as QPR met Birmingham City. Scott Hogan did find the net for City but was ruled offside. QPR are 16th while Brimingham are 17th.
The championship rolls on to Tuesday and Wednesday again this week with Blackburn hosting leaders Reading and Bournemouth v Bristol City as the stand out games.
Sixth placed Blackburn welcome Cardiff City to Ewood Park this Saturday in matchday four of the Championship. Rovers come into the game in good form following big wins over Wycombe and Derby (5v0 and 4v0). Cardiff lost for a second time this season last time out falling to Reading 2v1. Last season the sides drew 0-0 at Ewood Park while Blackburn won at Cardiff City Stadium 3-2. The Bluebirds are without a win in Blackburn since 2012 so will face a huge task to pick up the points.
Cardiff manager Neil Harris confirm that Lee Tomlin and Josh Murphy would be unlikely to play 90 minutes. The pair could make an appearance from the bench again as they did against Reading, Tomlin scoring for Cardiff. There could be returns for Joe Ralls and Joe Bennett, with harris saying:
“Both trained today (Thursday) which is really good news”. “Hopefully they train tomorrow and be ready for the weekend”.
As for Blackburn Corry Evans and Sam Gallagher have both trained this week with Rovers boss Tonybray saying:
“Corry Evans has come back training this morning (Thursday), Sam Gallagher has trained this week“.
“Tyler Magloire is another two weeks and there are a couple of other younger players on the route back”.
Joe Rankin-Costello is ruled out with a slight hamstring strain.
Cardiff boss on Blackburns good start:
“Blackburn have been in good form the last couple of weeks, scored some good goals, every opportunity they’ve had has gone in”.
“They’ve got good players and attacking players, good continuity. They’ve added two or three. They are a dangerous side at the moment, Adam Armstrong a top striker at this level”.
When asked about a lack of creativity:
“I think that’s a fair assessment. When you play at home and its 0-0 and you haven’t started great you want the fans to get behind you”. “We have had moments but not sustained periods”.
“We had it at Nottingham Forest our best 45 minutes of the season. Against Reading we were the better team, dominated the stats, but didn’t win the game”.
Tony Mowbray focus on his players speaking about Sam Gallagher:
“As long as he comes through training today. He’s trained all week, he’s trained a little bit at the end of last week and if he gets through today he’ll be in some form of contention this weekend”.
For Blackburn Adam Armstrong is in fine form scoring four in Blackburns last two wins, with a total of five for the season. With Gallagher doubtful they will be looking for Armstrong to lead the line.
Cardiff most likely without Tomlin from the start and possibly no Joe Ralls will have to find a solution to fill the gap in the number 10 role. With callum Paterson leaving this week to join Sheffield Wednesday, Leandro Bacuna will be the man tasked with sparking some creativity for the Bluebirds.
Prediction: Blackburn 2 v 0 Cardiff
Blackburn have been scoring for fun and Cardiff will do well to stop them. A lack of service for Kieffer Moore has seen the striker playing off scraps. History is also against Cardiff, this should be a comfortable win for Blackburn.