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south wales derby match preview

As derby games go there are not many bigger, historic or outright bizarre than the South Wales derby between Cardiff and Swansea. A friendly rivalry for many years at first turned into one of the most heated matches in football.

As welsh clubs playing in the English football league the early derby matches were played with fans mixing and some friendly banter. As the years went on on football hooliganism escalated so did the hatred between the two sets of fans.

A Brief History

Trouble at football games in the UK had been on the rise throughout the 70’s and 80’s and Cardiff and Swansea games were no different. Many football fans will be familiar with Swansea’s Swim Away gesture to Cardiff fans. This all stems from an incident at a match in Swansea in 1988.

As this was pre smart phones and viral videos accounts of the incident vary wildly but after a 2-0 Cardiff win around 30 Cardiff supporters were chased into the water. Police moved the Swansea fans away and dripping wet Cardiff supporters emerged from the waters. The swim away gesture has been used by many ex Swansea players whilst playing against Cardiff.

Swansea player Darren Pratley mocks Cardiff Fans

This season’s first meeting will take place at the Cardiff City Stadium, but without any supporters. It will be the first without any fans at the ground, but for many years away supporters were banned from this fixture.

After years of rising trouble at the derby fixture the FAW finally had enough in 1993, banning away supporters for four years. It came to a head after a match at Ninian Park in 1993, the game has been dubbed the “Battle of Ninian Park”. Swansea fans came to Ninian Park and ripped out seats and threw them at Cardiff supporters. Cardiff supporters responded by invading the pitch to attack the Swansea fans. Former Football Intelligence officer Simon Chivers described it as the worst violence I’ve ever seen.” There were many arrests and several police officers and supporters were injured in one of the darkest days for Welsh football. For the first time in the UK away supporters were banned from attending until 1997.

Thankfully scenes like this are no longer the norm at Cardiff/Swansea games. When fans were allowed to attend away games all fixtures between the sides have been “bubble” games.

Across the years no side has ever won two league meetings in a season. The clubs have won two games in a season, but due to playing in the Welsh Cup, the league double has never been done.

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Cardiff have turned their form around winning four straight games. They have scored ten and conceded just one in that run. They have climbed up to 9th place and are just four points from the play-off places.

Swansea, meanwhile, have won three, drawn two and lost one of their last six games. They are in 4th place and only a point behind 2nd placed Bournemouth.

Last season saw a goalless draw at Cardiff while Swansea won 1-0 in their home game. Prior to last season the last derby games came in the Premier League.

Swansea enjoyed a 3-0 win at the Liberty Stadium in Garry Monk’s first game as manager. It was the Bluebirds who won the first ever Premier League game 1-0 with former Swansea player Steven Caulker scoring the only goal.

Cardiff have the edge overall with 44 wins to Swansea’s 36, with 28 draws.

Team News

Harry Wilson is a major doubt for the game with an arm injury picked up during City’s win at Stoke on Tuesday. Osei-Tutu and Tomlin are both still unavailable. With Wilson likely to miss this game Junior Hoilett will be the most likely to step in in.

Morgan Gibbs-White is still out for Swansea but Steve Copper will have no new injury concerns.

Managers Thoughts

Cardiff Manager Neil Harris:

It’s a huge game. Bragging rights are at stake. It’s a massive game. I was watching some footage earlier of the game back in January. The stadium was packed, atmosphere was electric. Both clubs will miss the fans. It’s a great fixture in the football calendar, one of the biggest games of the season in the Championship.

Fans will be missed but it doesn’t take away the importance of it.

We know the importance to the fan base.

Harris was asked if he understood the importance of this game for the Cardiff fans,

Course I do. It’s never lost on me.

In my playing career, they are the best games to play in.

I know the importance to the fan base and that will certainly be mentioned in the changing room. It already has been.

It’s not a joy for people in lockdown in the lead up to Christmas and they can’t watch their team. There’s been a hardship and we have an opportunity to put smiles on faces.

Swansea manager Steve Cooper also spoke about the fans:

“It will be different in terms of the game and atmosphere,

“They were electric atmospheres last season, as anyone who was there will tell you, so we can’t shy away from it, it is different.

“That’s why you cannot compare with previous seasons or previous games.

“But is a game that means an awful lot to supporters, it’s one we really want to win and one we want to really commit to and attack.

“It is for the supporters. I want them to see a team working hard and giving their best because football is so important to so many people.

“It will be a perfect chance to give a bit back and we will be committing to that.”

Key Players

While Kieffer Moore is gaining plaudits for his recent form part of this has been down to the introduction of Mark Harris. Harris has been a revelation since his introduction to the starting line which has seen Cardiff win the last four. Harris has scored one himself but gives defenders more to think about allowing more space for Moore. The Swansea born striker could be the key to unlocking Swansea’s defence.

Andre Ayew has picked up seven goals this season for Swansea. Swansea have only lost one game this season when Ayew has scored. The striker is a big game player and will relish this fixture.

Prediction; Cardiff ? v ? Swansea

This derby is unpredictable at the best of times. Playing behind closed doors will change the dynamic like never before in this fixture. Its likely to be a close game with just a goal in it.

Championship Preview: Watford v cardiff city

Third placed Watford will host Cardiff City this Saturday in the Championship. The match will be played with supporters as Watford is in tier two allowing 2,000 fans to attend the game.

Watford come into this game on the back of a goalless draw at Nottingham Forest. The Hornets have only suffered one loss in their last eleven games. They are unbeaten at home this season taking 19 out of 21 points at Vicarage Road.

Cardiff have back to back home wins against Luton and Huddersfield but pioir to this had only one win in eight games. Cardiff are without an away win in four games drawing twice and losing twice.

The last meetings between the side came in the Premier League in 2018/19. Watford won both matches 5-1 at Cardiff and 3-2 at home. The Bluebirds, however, lead the overall head to head 22 wins to The Hornet’s 21, but Watford have won the last three meetings.

Team News

Watford will be without Nathaniel Chalobah who will miss the match though suspension, picking up a fifth yellow card in midweek. The 10 day isolation for the three players who had positive Covid-19 tests has ended. Adam Masina, Tom Cleverley and Will Hughes have been back in training. Tom Dele-Bashiru, Andre Gray and Isaac Success will all miss this match.

For Cardiff Jordi Osei-Tutu, Lee Tomlin and Isaac Vassell all remain unavailable. Filip Benkovic could return to the squad after an illness. Robert Glatzel came off the bench to score on Tuesday against Huddersfield could be in line to start ahead of Mark Harris.

Managers Thoughts

Watford manager Vladimir Ivic spoke ahead of the game about the need to rotate his squad:

“We know that in this moment with a lot of games we need to rest some players, like you see with Craig [Cathcart] and his hamstring [injury late on against Nottingham Forest].

“We believe that in the next days some of the players will come to help us who have stayed out for different reasons – some of them being injured and some having COVID – so we will see what’s going to happen in the next days.”

Neil Harris spoke about playing in front of fans this weekend, despite Cardiff not being able to have fans back as Welsh Government rules are different to England:

I’m not fussed if Watford fans are there or not. We are not going to see fans back in our stadium, we have spoken about that hindering us.

It is what it is, the Welsh Government have made their decision. Watford fans, not fussed.

Football as a whole needs supporters. I’m quietly pleased for teams that are getting supporters back, every sport needs them. But unfortunately we are not in that position to welcome our fans back.

Does it have an effect? If anything it will spur my players on. It will have more of an away game feel about it.

Speaking about his oppostion this weekend:

Good players. A team that wasn’t expected to be relegated from the Premier League. They have got a massive squad, an embarrassment of riches, but it’s the Championship.

The amount of teams clustering at the top, middle and bottom. People always question the ability in the Championship but it’s as good as ever.

If you finish above Watford then you are going to finish in the top three, or maybe even top two.

But I worry about getting us right and getting in the best possible condition to stop them and affect the game the other way, being proactive and aggressive.

Key Players

For Watford they will be looking for Ismaila Sarr to continue his good form so far this season. Sarr has picked up three goals and two assists, with a Whoscored rating of 7.1. The 22 year old forward also has 3 man of the match performances.

Cardiff will hope the form of Wales striker Kieffer Moore continues. Moore has seven goals for Cardiff and two for Wales this season. With a whoscored rating of 7.34 overall and 7.57 in the Championship. He has won over 10 aerials per game and Cardiff will look to play though the striker.

Prediction: Watford 1-1 Cardiff City

Watford are unbeaten at home and will have fans for the first time in a long time. The extra pressure could tell against a Cardiff team that have gained confidence with two wins in a row. Both teams have quality across the pitch and will be hard to break down.

Championship preview: barnsley v bournemouth

This weekends Championship fixtures kick off tonight as Barnsley host Bournemouth at Oakwell. No fans will be able to return for this mach as Barnsley still sits in tier three.

Barnsley sit in 15th in the Championship table and come into this game on the back a 2-1 win at Birmingham. The Tykes have won five and lost three in their last eight matches. They have lost just one if their last six home games, a narrow 1-0 loss to Brentford.

Bournemouth are currently in second, one point behind leaders Norwich. After a run of three wins they drew at Rotherham and then lost at home to Preston. The loss to Preston was just their second defeat of the season.

These two sides haven’t met since 2014 when Bournemouth won 1-0 at Oakwell. That day Steve Cook scored a 94th minute winner for the Cherries. Although the sides have not met very often in recent years Barnsley’s last win came in 2004 with a 3-1 win at the Vitality Stadium.

Team News

Ben Williams and Jordan Williams will both miss the game against Bournemouth. Elliot Simoes remains a doubt after coming off in the match against Cardiff City.

For Bournemouth Cameron Carter-Vickers and Jack Stacy will miss out. Arnaut Danjuma and Josh King are both doubtful to return to the side.

Managers Thoughts

Valerien Ismael has called for his players to be more ruthless in games, speaking to the press ahead of the game:

“When we play every three days, it can be very dangerous for us. We must become more ruthless.

“We know this and work with the guys on it. We must improve. For sure, we need the next step in this game tomorrow with more efficiency to avoid mistakes and be more ruthless.”

Despite Bournemouth’s quality Ismael believes his side can win this game:

“Bournemouth is a very big side with high quality, a Premier League club until this season and we expect another tough game.

“But we have prepared the guys, they know what to expect on Friday and if we can be more clinical, more ruthless and continue to work hard for each other, we will be a strong opponent.

“We go into every game trying to win, tomorrow is no different.”

Jason Tindle spoke to the media ahead of this fixture and is looking for his side to bounce back after a disappointing result at Preston:

“Certainly of the back of a disappointing result you want the next game to come around quickly, to go out and deliver a good performance. You know hopefully a winning performance.

We certainly got that opportunity now tomorrow evening we know we need to go there and deliver a better all round performance then we did we did against Preston.”

Tindle knows his side will face a difficult task as they head to Barnsley this evening.

Speaking on his opponents:

“A team that’s got a lot fight, a team that’s gonna make it very difficult for us , a team that’s very hard to break down and a team that’s gonna play to win the game.

“So we gotta go there were not going to underestimate them
in any way and we gotta go there and deliver a performance that’s worthy of winning the game.”

Key Players

For Barnsley striker Cauley Woodrow has picked up six goals and three assists so far this season. The striker has a Whoscored.com rating of 7.12 with an average of 3.6 shots per game and 2.8 aerials won.

Dominic Solanke has been in fine form for Bournemouth with a Whoscored.com rating of 7.25. He has five goals and three assists for the season.

Prediction: Barnsley 1-2 Bournemouth

Barnsley pulled off a good comeback win at Birmingham but Bournemouth will have too much quality. After a defeat to Preston expect Bournemouth to put in a better performance tonight to keep their promotion push going.

Championship Preview: Cardiff city v luton town

Cardiff City will host Luton Town this weekend at Cardiff City Stadium. The Bluebirds come in to this match on a poor run of form that has seen them win one in eight. Luton are unbeaten in four but have drawn the last three matches.

Last season saw City win both league meetings between the sides. A 2-1 win with a 96th minute winner from Isaac Vassell, and a 1-0 win from a Lee Tomlin goal. The two side also met in the EFL Cup with Luton running out 3-0 winners.

Besides last season meetings the side have remain apart since 2007 when they played out a goalless draw at Kenilworth Road. Overall Luton lead the head to head with 23 wins. Cardiff have 20 wins and there have been 17 draws.

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Cardiff have gone behind in all but four of their games this season. Poor errors and slow start meaning they often have to work just to salvage a point. Many Cardiff fans have been calling for Harris to be replaced after Cardiff’s poor start. Cardiff are 18th, just five points from the relegation zone.

Luton, meanwhile, are looking up and currently sit 11th four points from the play-off places. With five wins so far of which three have been away from home. Their last three have seen them draw, twice leading games and conceding.

Team News

Cardiff will be without both Lee Tomlin and Jordi Osei-Tutu both still some weeks from being available. Greg Cunningham has been training , but might not be ready for a return to the match day squad yet.

Brendan Galloway will also not be in the match squad for the trip to Cardiff. Dan Potts will be unlikely to feature.

Managers Thoughts

Cardiff manager Neil Harris spoke at his pre-match press conference on the pressure building after his sides poor start:

Yeah, ultimately, Vincent [Tan], Mehmet [Dalman], Ken [Choo], Steve Borley, they are the ones who count. Everyone is entitled to an opinion in modern society, I get that, but, to me, what matters is what we build in-house, within our changing room. But also what the thought process is of above.

I spoke to the board, they want success. Mehmet spoke a couple of months ago about January, being in the top six and wanting to challenge and that’s a realistic expectation for us. That’s my job to deliver that.

I understand that and a football manager needs to win football matches.

I love my job, I really, really enjoy working with the group. But you have to get results as a manager.

I think this is a big period for me, the club and the group, the next couple of games. I put expectations on my own shoulders and I need players my to deliver and I need to get big calls right.

With a big game coming this weekend, would there be chances for this Cardiff Side, Harris continued:

I think we have tried to change the way we’ve played and approach games, the style of play. The majority of it has been really good. The two penalty areas have been the problem. We’ve not scored enough, we’ve conceded the first goal too often. When we have conceded the first goal it’s because we have made errors.

I’ve asked players to adapt their play. I may have to be a little more pragmatic in my approach to some players. We have to find a way of putting teams under more pressure. I have to consider personnel, style of play, formation, all those things considered from a Wednesday to a Saturday.

Luton Manager Nathan Jones spoke about the upcoming game to Luton Website:

“There’s never a good time to play Cardiff, especially away, because they’re a tough side to play. They have got experienced Championship players, a lot with Premier League experience so it’s a tough, tough game.

“Not sure it’s a good time, bad time or anything to play them. It’s a Championship game and the Championship is never an easy ride in anyway shape or form.

When asked about his opposite number Jones said:

“Neil Harris did a wonderful job last year, got them in the play-offs. The Championship is one of those things, someone told me once that you don’t have to do a hell of a lot different in the Championship to go four unbeaten or to get four or five defeats on the spin because it is that type of league.

“Neil is experienced, they are not in a precarious position in anyway shape or form, far more teams in precarious positions, plus he brought himself a little bit of leeway because he has done fantastic work there.”

Jones wants his side to “impact” and start to out their stamp on the Championship:

“We don’t just want to get results. Now we want to impact and to start putting our stamp on the Championship.

“That’s a bold, bold statement and others may listen to that and think, ‘What are they on about? These should be down the bottom’.

“But it’s about what we want to do. We don’t care about anything else. We don’t look outside of the four walls we have here, outside Bedfordshire, for example. We want to evolve into what we want to evolve into, and that’s constant work

“We’ll have to take some punches on the chin and punches on the nose, but we’re going to ride them and come back stronger and stronger because we’ve had a good bit of experience at the level. But, now, we want to have more than experience.”

Key Players

For Cardiff they could have lost Wednesday game by more goals. They had goalkeeper Alex Smithies to thank for it. Smithies has been excellent since breaking into the team last season. If Smithies can keep City in the game than they do have the quality, if not the form to hurt teams.

For Luton its Welsh international Rhys Norrington-Davies. With Cardiff’s lack of a proper right back its an area Luton could exploit. Norrington-Davies can get forward and help in attack and playing down Cardiff’s right could give them great opportunities to get the ball into the box.

Prediction; 1-1

Luton will take the lead by capitalising on Cardiff’s typical slow starts to matches, but the Bluebirds should be able to get a draw.

CHAMPIONSHIP weekend round up

Changes at the top as Norwich go top, Reading drop to sixth and Bournemouth go second. Three wins from five moves Stoke City to seventh and one point of a play-off place. A third defeat in a row means Derby stay bottom, Wycombe remain in relegation places after draw with Brentford.

Canaries Top of the Table

Norwich picked a vital away win beating Middlesbrough by a single goal. Both teams had chances in the first half but Middlesbrough had a golden opportunity to take the lead early in the second half.

Some good work down the left allowed Marcus Tavernier to get the ball into the Norwich box. The Canneries were unable to properly clear the ball and Tavernier was brought down by Ben Gibson, resulting in a penalty. Tavernier took the kick and put the ball into the net but as he took the kick he lost his footing and was judged to have touched the ball twice. The referee disallowed the goal and Norwich were let away with one.

The let off sparked Norwich into life, Timo Pukki hitting a shot in the side netting. Tavernier’s poor luck continued as he blazed a shot over the bar from six yard box. Norwich got their goal after 72 minutes. Max Aarons playing a 1-2 with Emiliano Buendia, was then brought down in the box. Pukki had no problems with his penalty rolling the ball into the corner.

Norwich manager Daniel Farke told BBC Radio Norfolk:

“Middlesbrough is a tough place to go, they were on an eight-game unbeaten run and conceding just one goal in their last seven games so, that shows the size of the task today.”

Cherries Second half come-back

It was a fourth straight defeat for Reading as they drop to sixth place. After taking a two goal lead into halftime they were blown away by Bournemouth’s second half fight back.

It started so well for Reading Alfa Semedo winning the Royals a penalty after 4 minutes, when he was brought down by Begovic. Despite Begovic going the right way he was unable to stop Lucas Joao’s spot kick. It was 2-0 before the break as Oviemuno Ejaria’s through ball found Sone Aluko who guided the ball past Begovic.

The comeback started on 56 minutes as Dominic Solanke turned in from Lloyd Kelly’s cross. David Brooks’ pass cut through Readings defence and found Arnaut Danjuma who squeezed the ball in from a tight angle. Bournemouth took the lead after Brooks laid the ball off to Lewis Cook. Cook took a touch then sent a screamer of a shot into the top corner. The home side made sure of the points late on. Reading keeper Rafael giving the ball to Solanake, and after a scramble between them Solanke put the ball into the empty net.

Jason Tindle told BBC Radio Solent:

“We got ourselves in a difficult position at half-time and started slowly and I had to say one or two words and make a few tactical changes.

“We needed to come out and prove that this was a top of the table clash and, in the second half, we performed a lot better.

“That sort of result gives us confidence and the second half is our benchmark. We need to take it into the next run of games.”

Bristol City Pile pressure on Derby

Elsewhere, it is now three straight defeats for Derby after Bristol City win 1-0 at Ashton Gate.

Famara Diedhiou got the only goal of the game after 78 minutes. Antoine Semenyo breaking into the box from the right cuts the ball back to Diedhiou who placed his left footed shot into the bottom corner past David Marshall.

The win comes after Bristol City had a Covid-19 outbreak at their training ground. Dean Holden told BBC:

“To play like that after only one and a half day’s training this week was an unbelievable effort by the players.

“I can’t stress too much how well they did in the circumstances. During an international break you normally have two weeks to build up to the next game.”

Swansea City, meanwhile, beat Rotherham by a single goal. Matt Grimes netting his first of the season for the Swans. Grimes hit a shot from outside the box and going through a crowd of players the ball found the net. The win is Swansea’s third in a row at home as they look to reach the play-offs again this season.

Preston got their first home win of the season by beating Sheffield Wednesday by a goal to nil. The Owls had to play most of the game with 10 men after Josh Windass was given a straight red for a high foot. Tom Barkhuizen got Preston’s goal three minutes after the restart. Smashing home a volley from 16 yards out after Wednesday keeper Keiran Westwoods punch clear. With a first win at home Preston could mount a charge up the table if they can replicate their good away form.

Barnsley, however, left it late with two goals in the last five minutes to beat Forest 2-0. Barnsley twice struck the crossbar in the first half but had their keeper to thank for the goalless half time score. Jack Walton making three fine saves to keep the score at 0-0.

He made another in the second half as Forest looked to break the deadlock. The opening goal came from Callum Styles shotting from the edge of the box into the top corner. Cauley Woodrow got the second after good work from the right from Callum Brittain. Barnsley have four wins from five and now sit 13th.

Seven Goal Thriller

A goal feast at Stoke as they beat Huddersfield 4-3. The visitors took the lead as Carel Eiting volley from the edge of the box went in. The host’s levelled as Tyrese Campbell latched on to a loose ball in the box and smashed the ball into the net. Campbell gave Stoke the lead two minutes later, played into the box he rolled the ball under the keeper 2-1. Isaac Mbenza squared things up again at 2-2, played in by Eiting he rolled the ball under the Stoke keeper. Stoke pressed high as Huddersfield tried to play out form the back. Campbell getting the ball in the box and his shot going in off Richard Stearman.

Sam Clucas made it four for Stoke, with some good footwork he found a pocket of space and shot into the top corner. Huddersfield made it 4-3, Mouhamadou-Naby Sarr heading in from Mbenza’s free kick.

Elsewhere

Cardiff came from behind to draw with Millwall as Neil Harris made his first return to his former club. Matt Smith gave Millwall the lead on 35 minutes with his first of the season. Kieffer Moore scored his fourth Cardiff goal on 79 minutes to get a point for the visitors.

QPR went behind early to a Ben Wilmot goal after 3 minutes for Watford. Llias Chair made sure the points were shared with his third goal of the season. The draw drops Watford to fith. Five draws for QPR this season as they sit in 18th place.

Luke Berry gave Luton the lead on 69 minutes at Kenilworth Road. Sam Gallagher leveled for Blackburn three minutes later giving both sides a point. Both sides are unbeaten in three games. Luton are 10th while Blackburn are 14th.

Coventry City v Birmingham and Wycombe v Brentford both ended goalless. Coventry remain a point above Wycombe down the bottom. Brentford have now drawn four of their last five.

Norwich now lead the table and Reading having lost four in a row have dropped to sixth. The table will keep changing with only eight points from 12th to 1st.