Cardiff City vs Fulham
Venue: Cardiff City Stadium
Referee: Kevin Friend
Cardiff City will entertain a similarly out of sorts Fulham side this Saturday as 17th faces 20th in an important clash at the bottom of the Premier League table.
The Welsh side have found life very tough in the top flight since their return and their league position just echoes this. No side has scored fewer goals than them and only one side has conceded more goals; their attack has left much to be desired with a measly four goals all season.
To put this into context, Fulham striker Aleksander Mitrovic has five himself which says a lot about how poor Cardiff’s attacking outfit has been in front of goal this season. Last time out Warnock’s Cardiff travelled to London to face a challenging Tottenham side and despite only conceding the once, they failed to get in on the act themselves and fell to a 1-0 defeat.
Having said this, things for Saturday’s visitors have not exactly been going to plan either and Slavisa Jokanovic’s men are just two points off the bottom three. Their attack has at times looked Premier League quality but their defence has shipped eight goals in the last two games and that has been a major problem which needs to be addressed. A brand of passing football has been their identity yet a shambolic defence has overshadowed that this season. Their shambolic defence leaked five goals last time out as a ruthless Arsenal side ran rampant at the Cottage.
Cardiff’s focus this weekend will be moving off of the foot of the table where they are currently tied with fellow season strugglers, Huddersfield. The situation is not that dire for Fulham who do have quality players in their ranks that can help turn the tied for the London side.
Nathaniel Mendez-Laing will be out for the Bluebirds as he has not recovered from a cruciate ligament problem. Influential midfielder Joa Ralls, who was sent off in the last game against Tottenham will be suspended for the fixture. Ralls has been one of the better performers for Neil Warnock this season and his absence will be keenly felt.
Having said this, Aron Gunnarsson is hopeful of making his return from injury and is a suitable candidate to fill the void left by Ralls. Full-back Lee Peltier will be sidelined as well after he dislocated his shoulder last month against Manchester City.
Aside from Ralls’ absence, Warnock may name an unchanged side for the visit of Fulham. However the numerous changes in lineups already this season suggests otherwise. Callum Paterson started as the lone striker last time out yet after the Bluebirds failed to net once again, it may be one of Kenneth Zohore or Bobby Reid in the starting XI this time.
Jokanovic will be hopeful that captain Tom Cairney can make his return and he will be assessed ahead of the weekend. He was one of the key performers last season for Fulham, and his return will be a welcomed one. Joe Bryan will be sidelined with a thigh problem, and Timothy Fosu-Mensah will also be absence due to a shoulder injury. Aside from these, Fulham have a clean bill of health ahead of the clash.
The key decision for Jokanovic ahead of the clash will no doubt be his choice of formation as he has alternated between a three-man and a four-man defence on numerous occasions this season. He has clearly not decided upon his strongest lineup yet and getting that right will be the first step to begin their rise up the table.
Predicted Starting XI’s:
Cardiff City – (4-4-2): Etheridge; Bennett, Morrison, Bamba, Ecuele Manga; Murphy, Camarasa, Arter, Hoilett; Reid, Paterson.
Fulham – (4-3-3): Bettinelli; Sessegnon, Odoi, Ream, Christie; Anguissa, McDonald, Seri; Vietto, Mitrovic, Schurrle.
Score Prediction: Cardiff City 1 Fulham 2
However bad Cardiff’s attack is, Fulham’s woeful defence will allow a goal. But bet on their superior attack winning them a vital three points in this one.