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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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