Cardiff City vs West Ham United
Venue: Cardiff City Stadium
Referee: Graham Scott
Neil Warnock’s Cardiff City host West Ham United at the Cardiff City Stadium on Saturday afternoon, with the Bluebirds looking to put an end to a three-game losing streak.
Cardiff have only scored once in their last three games and have conceded ten goals. Most recently they were defeated 2-0 by Wolves, with this run of form resulting in Cardiff dropping into the relegation zone, two points behind 18th placed Southampton.
Neil Warnock will be conscious of Cardiff City’s record against West Ham in the Premier League. The Bluebirds have played the Hammers three times and have lost on each occasion, scoring only one goal. In fact, West Ham have won their last seven games against Cardiff in all competitions.
West Ham, however, have only lost once in their last five games; a 1-0 defeat to Manchester City. The Hammers have impressed recently, losing just once in their last seven league games, meaning Pellegrini’s side have cemented themselves in the top ten of the Premier League.
There has been a massive mentality change at West Ham with regular expectations of losing or struggling to teams below them in the league seemingly coming to an end.
Saturday represents an opportunity for Pellegrini and this West Ham side to kick on in their march up the Premier League table, as they look to close the gap on 7th place.
Cardiff manager, Neil Warnock, will have to make one important change to his starting line-up after key centre-back Sol Bamba ruptured his ACL. Bamba will now miss the rest of the season, meaning Cardiff’s survival chances have taken a big hit.
The Ivorian defender has been crucial to Cardiff’s season in defence and attack, scoring four goals for the Bluebirds this season making him their joint top goal-scorer. With Bamba out, it is most likely that Bruno Ecuele Manga will come in as his replacement to partner Sean Morrison in defence.
Manuel Pellegrini, on the other hand, is starting to get players back to full fitness. Manuel Lanzini has looked sharper since his return and could be in line for his second start of the season. Lanzini has added so much to the West Ham team since his return, linking defence to attack with remarkable ease and helping the Hammers counter attack with real purpose in the final third.
Pellegrini will also be happy to have Aaron Cresswell available for selection after he was taken off as a precaution against Newcastle. The left-back was involved in a nasty head collision with Javi Manquillo and was substituted before half-time. Cresswell has impressed recently and in the process has become West Ham’s first choice left-back this season.
Defender Fabian Balbuena could make his comeback against the Bluebirds. The Paraguayan has been out for over eight weeks after surgery on his meniscus. Balbuena may not walk straight back into the starting eleven however due to the phenomenal form of Angelo Ogbonna. The Italian was seen to be on his way out of the club due to poor form but has cemented himself in the team due to his recent performances.
West Ham also have Samir Nasri and Winston Reid back in first team training, but the Cardiff game will be too soon for those two. In terms of injuries, the Hammers are still without Andriy Yarmolenko, Carlos Sanchez and Jack Wilshere who are all out with long-term injuries.
Jack Wilshere’s injury woes have continued this season, and the Hammers are contemplating terminating his contract if his ankle continues to be an issue. The former England player is currently one of the highest earners at West Ham and is yet been able to justify his £100,000 per week wage.
Predicted Starting XIs
Cardiff City (4-1-2-1-2): Etheridge, Peltier, Morrison, Manga, Bennett, Gunnarsson, Ralls, Camarasa, Reid, Zohore, Niasse.
West Ham United (4-2-3-1): Fabianski, Fredericks, Diop, Ogbonna, Cresswell, Rice, Noble, Anderson, Lanzini, Antonio, Hernandez.
Prediction: Cardiff City 0 West Ham 3
West Ham will be confident as they beat Cardiff 3-1 at the London Stadium in December. Cardiff will have to be very strong defensively if they will want to get anything out of the game, and this has been made harder due to the absence of Bamba and the fact they have the second worse defensive record in the Premier League.
Felipe Anderson, Manuel Lanzini and Javier Hernandez will be licking their lips at the prospect of adding to their goal stats against the wingless Bluebirds.
The three Southern and Central Americans have been linking up brilliantly in recent weeks and looked incredibly dangerous going forward. The Hammers will also be boosted with the option of Marko Arnautovic coming off the bench if they struggle at first. It will be a hard day at the office for Cardiff to keep the Hammers at bay for the full ninety minutes.