This week saw Fulham leapfrog Cardiff City into second place in the Championship. The Cottagers defeated struggling Reading 1-0 whilst the Bluebirds suffered defeat at the hands of fellow promotion chasers Aston Villa.
Cardiff, however, do have a game in hand over their West London rivals and, if they can pick up the victory in that game, they will return to the automatic promotion spots.
One man who will hope they can beat Fulham to promotion more than others is Cardiff City goalkeeper Neil Etheridge.
The Philippines international has been a revelation for Neil Warnock’s side this season since arriving from Walsall in the summer.
But his career has been something of a struggle up to this point, including a difficult spell with Cardiff’s biggest promotion rivals. The 28-year-old headed to Fulham from Chelsea in 2006. He spent eight years with the Cottagers but played just once for the club in his time at Craven Cottage, in a Europa League clash with Odense Boldklub which saw Martin Jol’s side dumped out the competition.
Instead, he spent much of his time at Fulham out on loan with the likes of Leatherhead, Charlton, Bristol Rovers and Crewe Alexandra.
Then, in the summer of 2014, Fulham released him.
Since then he has rebuilt his career with spells at Oldham Athletic, Charlton and, eventually, excelling at Walsall.
Etheridge signed initially as a back-up to Lee Camp, has now established himself as the number one at Cardiff City. For him, ensuring that Cardiff get one over on Fulham would be a massive personal boost against a side who never gave him the chances, it seems, he could have taken.
Fantasy Premier League: Five players to sign for matchweek two
There is plenty of names to swoop for ahead of the weekend’s fixtures.
Fantasy Premier League returned with a bang last weekend, with a number of high-scorers handing plenty of players a solid start to the new campaign.
Popular players Sadio Mane, Richarlison and Aaron Wan-Bissaka all rewarded those who selected them on the opening weekend, each earning 12+ points, while Watford duo Roberto Pereyra (5.2%) and Jose Holebas (5.1%) also caught the eye and secured huge points for the few that opted for the Hornets pair.
Ahead of matchweek two in the Premier League, we have searched the databases for five players you should definitely look to pick up to provide your team with a boost.
Bernardo Silva: Manchester City
The news of Kevin De Bruyne’s knee injury has sent shockwaves across FPL, with 16.8% of players still having the Belgium international in their squad. If you fall into that category, you should definitely look at dropping the midfielder.
Bernardo Silva is the most likely candidate to step up for the Citizens in De Bruyne’s absence and he enters this weekend’s clash with Huddersfield Town in decent form, scoring the second goal in last week’s 2-0 victory over Arsenal.
Huddersfield conceded 58 goals last season, more than relegated pair West Brom and Swansea City, so Silva can be expected to add to his eight-point haul against the Terriers – especially as he has scored five goals in his last seven starts.
Ryan Fraser: Bournemouth
Scorer of the opening goal for Bournemouth in last weekend’s victory over Cardiff City, Ryan Fraser brought home 11 points for the few managers who had the midfielder in their side – and just 2.3% of managers have the 24-year-old in their squad.
Costing £5.5m, Fraser is perhaps a more expensive option to other creative players at lower-end Premier League sides to consider but he certainly has the form to make his outlay worthwhile – as he has been directly involved in six goals in his last six matches at the Vitality Stadium (four goals, two assists).
Ben Mee: Burnley
While the rest of the Premier League prepares for their second match, Burnley are well into their stride as Europa League qualifiers mean that Sean Dyche’s side have already played five matches this season – and they are in superb form.
The Clarets have now registered three consecutive clean sheets across all competitions following Thursday night’s 1-0 victory over Istanbul Basaksehir, although extra time could have taken some wind out of Burnley’s sails.
Hosting Watford this weekend, Ben Mee and the Burnley defence will face a stern test but history favours the hosts – who have not lost to the Hornets at Turf Moor since 2004, securing three clean sheets in the last three meetings in Lancashire.
Roberto Pereyra: Watford
Selected by 5.2% of managers heading into matchweek two, many may believe that Roberto Pereyra’s 16 point haul last weekend was just a freak occurrence after the 2-0 win over Brighton but the stats suggest that is not the case.
Pereyra has now hit four goals in his last five Premier League games at Vicarage Road and now faces the challenge of transferring that form into away matches – and a game against a tired Burnley side who played 120 minutes in midweek is the ideal opportunity for him to shine.
Watford need to build upon last weekend’s win as they have a tough run of fixtures coming up against Tottenham, Manchester United and Arsenal, with Pereyra’s attacking flair potentially providing the key to breaking down a resilient Burnley defence.
Neil Etheridge: Cardiff City
In last weekend’s 2-0 defeat to Bournemouth, Neil Etheridge became the first goalkeeper to save a penalty on his Premier League debut since Allan McGregor in 2013 by denying Callum Wilson from the spot – earning six points in the process.
The Welsh side are back at home this weekend against a Newcastle United outfit who continue to suffer under the tyranny of Mike Ashley. Defeat last weekend against Spurs was not surprising but has raised the pressure for Rafael Benitez’s side.
28-year-old Etheridge is a good bet to pick up further points this weekend against a Magpies side that scored just 39 goals in 38 matches last term, the lowest tally of any top-ten side excluding Burnley.
One winner, one loser from Cardiff’s defeat to Bournemouth
The Bluebirds were left empty-handed in their Premier League return.
Life back in the Premier League did not go the way Cardiff City intended, as they fell to a 2-0 defeat against Bournemouth.
The Bluebirds are looking to improve significantly on their performance from the last time when they were in the top-flight, where they finished rock-bottom in 2013-14 and lost 22 of their 38 matches, but improvements are needed.
Neil Warnock’s side now have a week to prepare for their hosting of Newcastle next weekend and have plenty to talk about from the game. Here, we have identified one winner and one loser from the game.
Winner: Neil Etheridge
The first Filipino to play in the Premier League, Neil Etheridge also se-cured another notable stat as he became the first goalkeeper to save a penalty on his debut in the competition since Allan McGregor for Hull City against Chelsea in 2013.
Etheridge’s save to deny Callum Wilson from the spot was superb, getting down quickly to his left and providing a strong palm to scoop the effort away, but it also came in a crucial period of the match. Had that gone in, the result would have quickly got beyond the reach of his side.
Instead, Cardiff improved significantly in the second period and gave Bournemouth a real run for their money. Unfortunately, it was not to be today but Etheridge can hold his head high following the performance.
Loser: Bobby Reid
It may seem a bit harsh to pick out a new striker on his Premier League debut in a feature like this but Bobby Reid’s selection is more down to the disappointing support from those around him than the performance of the striker himself.
Reid, at times, looked bright and caused Bournemouth some problems. However, the forward who hit 17 in the league last season, and signed for the Bluebirds for a £10 million fee, was left feeding on scraps and never really had the opportunity to test Asmir Begovic between the sticks for the Cherries.
His relationship with the players around him should improve as the campaign progresses and Reid did enough to provide some optimism but there is clearly some work to do on the training ground.
Three things learnt from Cardiff’s defeat to Bournemouth: Reid isolated
There is work to do for Cardiff in their return to the top-flight.
Cardiff City’s return to the Premier League did not get off to the ideal start as Neil Warnock’s side suffered a 2-0 defeat against Bournemouth.
The Bluebirds fell behind to Ryan Fraser’s first-half effort, saw goalkeeper Neil Etheridge superbly save a penalty and improved after the break – but Callum Wilson’s strike ensured that the visitors would head back to Wales empty handed.
It proves the newly-promoted side have plenty to learn in their return to the Premier League and we have identified three key things from the game.
In true Neil Warnock fashion, Cardiff played extremely direct throughout the game as they pumped the ball forward – often quickly after winning back possession as they looked to exploit Bournemouth on the counter-attack.
A positive is that there were spells in the match where the Bluebirds looked dangerous and had Bournemouth on the back foot but there was a severe lack of creativity in the side, with not enough support in the final third.
Asmir Begovic between the ticks for the hosts did not have a lot to do at all and there is something that needs to be improved in the weeks to come.
Building on the previous point, the style of player from Cardiff saw new signing Bobby Reid feeding on scraps for the majority of the game as his team-mates struggled to feed inviting balls through to the new striker.
It is all very well signing a player who hit 17 in the league last season but you have to provide him with chances. Cardiff will hope that the link-up between Reid and the rest of the squad improves as the season progresses but they may need to go back to the drawing board.
To be fair though, Reid did look bright in spells and certainly had Bournemouth worried – which at least gives them something to build upon.
“They are an established team in the Premier League and we could have got a result here on another day. We’re looking forward to the season and a few lads were a bit nervous but once that rubbed off, it was okay.”
More to come
A victory for Bournemouth yesterday was probably a fair reflection on the match but it was not as comfortable as the scoreline may suggest, with Cardiff looking a lot more threatening in the second half of the game.
The Bluebirds also started strongly in the match, stretching the Bournemouth defence, but were unable to maintain that pressure throughout the match – although it does show that there is still a lot more to come from Neil Warnock’s side.
Add to the fact that new signings Harry Arter, Greg Cunningham, Alex Smithies and Victor Camarasa did not feature, with Josh Murphy only earning a cameo of the bench, and it is clear that Cardiff have a lot more to offer.
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