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Cardiff City vs Bristol City: Match preview and predicted line-ups

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Under the Friday night TV cameras it’s a Severnside derby with an added kick as Cardiff City host Bristol City. It is Neil Warnock’s first game in charge of Cardiff City, which further adds to an already fairly heated fixture.

The Welsh side lie 23rd in the Championship table with the visitors flying high in 5th.  However, as the old, frankly overused, cliché goes – the form book goes out of the window in a derby. That is even more true considering what I am about to coin the “Warnock effect”.

Expect to see a much more defensively solid Cardiff side, backed up a vociferous crowd (over 24,000 are expected to be in attendance, much improved on recent years for the Bluebirds) in the Welsh capital.  Around 2,000 Bristol City fans are making the short journey over the Severn Bridge, much improved on last year’s 900 due to travel restrictions being lifted by the Police.

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Recent form

Cardiff City have only won two games all season – ironically against the other sides they are sandwiched between in the relegation zone, Blackburn Rovers and Rotherham United. There is no differential (in terms of accumulated points) between home form and away form for the former Premier League side.

One win away, one win at home, one draw away, one draw at home; with seven losses making up the remainder of the league fixtures summarises the need for change at Cardiff City. Paul Trollope lost his job after just five months in charge earlier this month, paving the way for the appointment of 67 year old Neil Warnock.

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Bristol City on the other hand are quietly going about the business rather well, and are seemingly punching above their weight so far this season. The goals of teenage superstar (yes, “superstar”- he is the in-form striker across Europe’s top leagues and only just turned 19) Tammy Abraham have no doubt helped Lee Johnson’s men, but make no mistake this is a young talented squad at the 35 year old’s disposal.

The Robins started off at an indifferent pace (although to be fair they did face all three newly relegated sides in a week) but have now won four on the spin in all competitions, notably a 0-4 away drubbing of Fulham. Only three points off of the automatic promotion places, Bristol City are happy to let other “larger” clubs of the division take the headlines, while they will hope to continue under the radar and remain within touching distance of automatic promotion for as long as possible.

Predicted line-ups

This being Neil Warnock’s first game in charge it is rather difficult to ascertain what formation he will opt for, and which players he will choose to deploy in it. New signings Junior Hoilett, Sol Bamba and Marouane Chamakh are eligible to feature, but doubts remain over their fitness.

Lee Johnson has no need to make wholesale changes from the side that defeated Nottingham Forest last time out. Right back Adam Matthews featured for the U23s in midweek, and this would be a great game for him to return to the Bristol City starting XI, against his former side.

Suspension/injuries

Cardiff City have no fresh injury concerns. The only question marks are over the fitness of the three new signings.

Korey Smith featured for Bristol City U23s in the week, but it is touch and go whether he can prove his fitness for this one. Gustav Engvall picked up another knock on international duty with Sweden, so his wait for a league debut continues.

Our prediction

Previously nothing but a Tammy Abraham inspired Bristol City win would have been predicted. However, such is the strength of the “Warnock effect” Cardiff will be a different beast entirely. Expect a good old-fashioned derby “ding dong” on a Friday night in Cardiff.

Prediction: 2-2.

Featured image: All rights reserved by Marc 

Bristol City

Three ambitious signings Bristol City should make this January

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Photo: Reuters

One month ago Bristol City looked to be in a much stronger position than they are now. Three league defeats in a row to runaway leaders Wolves, Aston Villa and Norwich City put a series of large dents in Lee Johnson’s automatic promotion hopes.

All is not lost for the side from the West Country, however, with a hard earned point away at Derby County stopping the rot, so to speak. The fact remains, though, that City have a number of injuries to key players.

The Robins were boosted by the return of Famara Diedhiou on Friday night versus The Rams, but took two steps back with one step forward, as Frank Fielding and Nathan Baker left the field of play at half-time, with respective groin and ankle injuries.

An already thread bare squad suddenly might have got even lighter.

With a gruelling 90 minutes (at very least), versus arguably the best side in Europe, to occupy Bristol City on Tuesday, before the brutal rhythm of the Championship season snares them again on Saturday with a home tie against Ian Holloway’s QPR, the club really do need some reinforcements.

Ryan Kent (loan) and Liam Walsh (permanent) have been brought in already and, while inexperienced, their youthful energy, bravery and intuition going forward will certainly help the overall team effort.

In some respects, literally *any* players will do – just more bodies to soak up some critical minutes from the first XI regulars.

That said, if City are going to mount a serious promotion/top six push they require more than just *any* signings, the BS3 outfit require players who will really improve and strengthen key positions – taking the workload off of the current players who have (on average) played 300 minutes more than their Championship opponents in 2018 alone.

Here are three players that would strengthen Bristol City as we get stuck into the second half of the 2017/2018 Championship season…

Alfredo Morelos – Rangers

Rangers’ Colombian striker Alfredo Morelos is the most recent name to be linked with a move to Bristol City, although the latest from the Bristol Post suggest these reports were wide of the mark.

The 21-year-old boasts a very impressive goal scoring track record, roughly once every two games, across his time playing top flight football in Colombia, Lithuania and Scotland.

Rangers are unlikely to want to sell one of their prized assets, but every player has his price.

Bristol City broke their transfer record this summer on Famara Diedhiou for a fee confirmed as £5.3 million.

Steve Lansdown could well break this record again within a season if he feels, or is convinced by the scouting network, that Morelos could be the difference between promotion and mid-table mediocrity.

At 21, he certainly has room to improve and could be a useful investment.

Sam Byram – West Ham

Bristol City’s first choice right-back, Eros Pisano, is not returning to training for a few more weeks and, with Zak Vyner now joined Plymouth on loan, the club need a right-sided full-back to take some pressure off of club captain Bailey Wright.

Sam Byram is certainly at the ambitious end of the spectrum, but as the old adage goes, if you don’t buy a ticket, you don’t win the raffle.

The youngster has not had as much game time as he would have liked at West Ham and with former Bristol City player David Moyes in the east London hot seat, coupled with City’s recent track record with Premier League loanees, this may not be as implausible a loan deal as some naysayers may suggest.

Lukas Nmecha – Manchester City

With Bristol City being linked, by the Daily Mail, with Manchester City potential loanees after Pep Guardiola’s alleged satisfaction with Lee Johnson’s style of football, a few Citizen academy players have been linked with a temporary loan south.

Lukas Nmecha is one of those names. The German born forward has represented England at age groups from Under-16 to Under-19 with a fair degree of success.

The 19-year-old, who stands at six foot tall, as a striker, does not represent a position of real need for Lee Johnson. However, one could argue that City are so desperate for players that anyone who could help out with 20 minutes here and there is useful.

Especially as the likes of Matty Taylor and Gustav Engvall have not proved themselves at this level, and Milan Djuric remains sidelined for the time being.

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Why Bristol City’s next three fixtures could be season defining

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Photo: Reuters

Bristol City have had a fantastic 2017/18 season so far, of that there can be little doubt.

Currently sitting fourth in the league, in the semi-finals of the League Cup, City have not only replaced the goals of Tammy Abraham “in-house”, they have gone viral with goal scoring gifs, and did this all playing for months with six long term injuries to first team players.

This is less a matter of months after staving off relegation and a toxic atmosphere at Ashton Gate as Lee Johnson lost eight Championship fixtures on the spin and ‘Johnson Out’ bedsheets were plastered over major highways in south Bristol.

For Bristol City to now be playing brave attacking football, beating four Premier League sides (including Manchester United) and going toe-to-toe with Manchester City at the Etihad, spearheaded by local academy midfield graduate turned striker Bobby Reid, Robins fans can have little complaints. Or so you would think.

City have somewhat under the radar lost five games on the bounce, most recently a 0-1 home versus against Norwich City (this rather cheeky tweet from the Canaries’ media team did not go unnoticed).

Admittedly two of the five aforementioned defeats were in cup competitions – one a 2-1 last minute loss courtesy of Sergio Aguero, the other a 3-0 reverse at Vicarage Road with a second string XI put out by Lee Johnson.

That said, late defeats against Wolves, Norwich and a thumping at Aston Villa, won’t exactly be good for morale. Media plaudits for performances in the League Cup will only go so far, and City fans will be wanting owner Steve Lansdown to seriously invest this January to get the promotion push back on track.

Liam Walsh and Ryan Kent have been added so far, and they will inject youthful energy – much needed for this paper thin squad. Alone these two exciting prospects will not be enough.

The return of the likes of record signing Famara Diedhiou, Eros Pisano, Callum O’Dowda and Milan Djuric will also help squad depth and stop the current norm for City of players playing out of position.

However, one or two marque signings are required if Lee Johnson is to stand any chance of an automatic promotion berth. After this run of losses, the next three fixtures could be season defining for Bristol City, and they are as follows:

Derby (A)

The toughest of the three fixtures is a Friday night trip under the lights at Pride Park. This County side is a different beast altogether than the one put to the sword 4-1 at Ashton Gate in September.

Gary Rowett is showing his credentials as one of the most talented young English managers in the game, and has guided The Rams up to second in the division, with the Whites unbeaten in the Championship since November 28th.

Impressive stuff from Derby, and it is fair to say an out of sorts Bristol City will have their work cut out. If City were to win, not only would it send a statement to the rest of league but it would also get the automatic promotion push well back on track – a massive six pointer to look forward to in the coming days.

QPR (H)

Whenever Ian Holloway visits Ashton Gate, it is an occasion. The City faithful will never forget his Gas roots – playing, captaining and managing Bristol Rovers as well as an infamous speech from the top of a bus when Rovers pipped City to the third division title in 1990.

Holloway brings a QPR side to Ashton Gate with some familiar faces in the form of Luke Freeman and Matt Smith. The London oufit started the season poorly but are beginning to turn things around. That said, if City are serious about their promotion aspirations this needs to be three points won.

This will be the first game after the second leg home tie versus Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City. Let’s hope that win, lose or draw, City do not suffer a hangover going back in the brutal rhythm of the Championship.

Bolton (A)

More familiar faces for City fans with Mark Little and Aaron Wilbraham now plying their trade for Bolton Wanderers, and another three points should be the target, one feels.

Bolton, like QPR, have had a mini resurgence in recent weeks but, despite this being an away fixture, Lee Johnson will need a win to keep up the pressure on the other promotion hopefuls (especially if he loses the six pointer versus Derby).

By the time this game rolls around the Robins may have a couple of new signings, and maybe even a few of the long term injuries back in the fold.

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Manchester City 2-1 Bristol City: Three talking points from the Etihad Stadium

Jake Jackman

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Manchester City

Manchester City scored a stoppage-time winner to beat Bristol City in the first leg of their Carabao Cup semi-final. The visitors have been the feel-good story of the competition, as they have knocked out Premier League opposition in four successive rounds. In the previous round, they knocked out Manchester United and they came to the Etihad Stadium with no fear. They pressed well and gave the hosts a fierce contest, which can’t be said of many teams this season.

Although the difference in quality was reflected in the final result thanks to a late Sergio Aguero winner, the tie is delicately poised and Bristol City will be confident that they can spring a shock result at home. Manchester City found it difficult tonight and the second leg is already shaping up to be a must-see contest, as both sides have a great chance of reaching the final. Here are three talking points from the Etihad Stadium:

John Stones is making costly errors

Manchester City have had a near-perfect season up to now and this win over Bristol City has put them in pole position to make the final next month. The victory may not have been as comfortable as many were expecting, but they got the job done and their winning mentality is difficult for opposition teams to overcome. There always seems an inevitability that they will find a way to win.

However, Pep Guardiola will be concerned at the lack of concentration shown by John Stones in recent matches. The centre-back has developed a lot since making the move to Manchester City and was heavily praised during the first half of the season for his consistency at the back. Since his return from injury, he hasn’t been as reliable and he has now made an error that has led to a goal in successive matches.

This was a hallmark of Stones’ game during his time at Everton and early City career, but it had improved during the opening few months of the season. Guardiola needs to address it quickly before it becomes ingrained in his game once again. The challenge to concede the penalty on Tuesday was lazy and if he makes a similar error in a bigger game, it could be even more costly.

Bristol City have a great team spirit

After a poor end to last season when they were dragged into relegation trouble in the Championship, few people expected Bristol City to be challenging this campaign. Lee Johnson was among the favourites to be the first manager to lose his job and few supporters had complete faith in him when the first ball was kicked.

The young manager showed early on that he had learned from the mistakes that he had made last season and the decision to keep faith in him has been rewarded. They play an entertaining brand of attacking football and their goal gifs on Twitter have become viral sensations. As the season has progressed, the bond between the squad and supporters has become stronger.

Most Championship teams would have gone to the Etihad Stadium and looked to play a defensive style to keep the score down. Bristol City didn’t do that. They played brave, attacking football and were good value for their one-goal lead at half-time. Although they lost the match, they came out of the game with a lot of credit and remain in the tie for the second leg.

Manchester City remain in the hunt for the quadruple

The quadruple has often been a topic of speculation for the top teams in England. Jose Mourinho talked about it as a target during his first spell at Chelsea and others have since, but no team have managed to do it. It is difficult to win every trophy in England due to the competitiveness of the division. There is a top six and that isn’t the case in any other top league, which makes it near impossible for one club to win everything.

That said, this Manchester City team is special. They have dropped points on only two occasions in the Premier League and they remain in all three cup competitions. It may not have been a great display on Tuesday, but Pep Guardiola picked a strong team and set out his intentions to respect the Championship team. He knew it wouldn’t easy, despite playing a lower division side and it proved to be the case.

The quadruple remains a long shot. It would be an extraordinary achievement and mark them as one of the greatest teams in recent history. Considering this is their first season of high achievement, that underlines how good they have been. It usually takes a period of sustained success to enter those discussions, but City are already in the argument. Guardiola was brought in to take the club on that extra step to be one of the best in Europe. The Carabao Cup may not be the most respected competition, but it would provide the manager with his first trophy in England. That is an important first step.

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