Cardiff City stunned the rest of the Premier League last weekend with an emphatic 3-2 win over big-spending Manchester City and they will host their second home game in a row on Saturday at 3.00pm, as Roberto Martinez’s Everton make the trip to Wales.
A late Fraizer Campbell brace over Manuel Pellegrini’s men proved decisive in the end, as the Bluebirds bounced back from their opening day defeat away to West Ham in superb style.
The visitors have started the new season with back-to-back draws against Norwich and West Brom despite dominating the possession in both of those games and will be hoping any further control against the opposition this time around will see them pick up all three points.
Former Swansea boss Martinez is likely to receive a hostile reception at the Cardiff City Stadium and the Spaniard will be without Antolin Alcaraz, who is still suffering from a hamstring injury, whilst Darron Gibson (knee) and Magaye Gueye (knock) are both doubts for the Toffees.
Malky Mackay will be hoping for more of the same from his team this weekend but the Scotsman’s new £7.5m signing, Andreas Cornelius, will be unavailable for selection after the striker picked up an ankle injury in their 2-0 win over Accrington Stanley in the Capital One Cup on Wednesday.
Possible Team Line-ups
The last time this fixture was contested dates all the way back to the 1961/62 season, when Cardiff and Everton shared the spoils with a 0-0 draw in December, before the Merseysiders won 8-3 in the return match on home soil in April.
After defeating Manchester City last Sunday, Cardiff now have the chance to win back-to-back top-flight matches for the first time since April 1962, whereas Everton haven’t won in their last three Premier League games (D2 L1).
Roberto Martinez has only won one of his last 10 games as a Premier League manager (W1 D5 L4) but he did successfully pick up two away wins out of three against last season’s promoted sides with Wigan Athletic, beating Southampton 2-0 and Reading 3-0.
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Mackay and Cardiff have done a lot of due diligence in their scouting of targets this summer and the £11m outlay on Gary Medel from Sevilla could prove to be a fantastic coup by the club if the Chile international can keep up the level of performance he showed against Manchester City all season long.
The defensive midfielder, nicknamed ‘El Pitbull’ when playing in Spain, will need to be on top form again as the likes of Marouane Fellaini and Ross Barkley will be hoping to get forward and test Cardiff’s defensive backline at every given opportunity from midfield.
Everton will have an array of attackers on the pitch and it will be Medel’s job to ease that pressure by winning the ball in midfield and feeding the likes of Peter Whittingham, Kim Bo-Kyung and Craig Bellamy if all three start just in front of him for the third consecutive match.
The 26-year-old completed 66.6% of his tackles against Manchester City, whilst also making four interceptions and two clearances. In Everton’s last two games against Norwich and West Brom, they had 65% possession in the first game, with 61% in the other, and under Martinez’s open and attacking system, it’s most likely that Everton will again look to control the tempo of the game by keeping hold of the ball and Medel must ensure nothing fruitful comes from that, whilst hoping Whittingham can produce some more fantastic delivery from set-pieces.
With Medel and Gunnarsson most likely to keep their places in the deeper midfield roles and look to contain Fellaini and Barkley from springing any attacks, that gives Steven Pienaar and Leighton Baines licenses to flourish down the left-hand side and cause Cardiff all sorts of problems in that area of the pitch.
Although Fellaini hit the post against West Brom last week, Pienaar was heavily influential in all of Everton’s attacks and looked the most likely player to break the deadlock for them, with two shots on target and two chances conjured up from open play.
The 31-year-old will look to drift inside onto his right-foot or play a reverse pass on a plate for Baines to hit first-time into the box for any oncoming attackers, and the danger for Cardiff is that the exact same threat can be replicated on the other flank between Seamus Coleman and Kevin Mirallas.
Last season, Pienaar was the seventh most creative player in the Premier League by creating 82 chances, including assists, in total whilst team-mate Baines was the best with 116. A whopping 96% of Pienaar’s chances came from open play and whilst Jesús Navas and David Silva failed to seriously threaten Cardiff’s full-backs in their last game, it will be a completely different kettle of fish against Everton this Saturday and that is potentially where the game could be won or lost.
Baines loves marauding forward as much as possible, but with Cardiff likely to play on the counter-attack and look to use Bellamy’s pace in behind him, how much the left-back can get forward purely depends on the amount of space Pienaar can create for him and the South African will therefore be pivotal in helping Everton score.
Cardiff’s result against Manchester City will have given them great confidence in preparing for the Everton game this week, but whilst the result was fantastic, they were playing against a side that lacked intensity in the attacking third on the day and were also disappointing when it came to wing-play and dealing with set-pieces.
Everton will be just as patient as City were on the ball, but Martinez’s outfit will be much more ruthless down the flanks and Baines and Pienaar’s telepathic understanding will wreak havoc if it gets flowing in the game.
Prediction: Cardiff City 0-2 Everton
Referee: Anthony Taylor
Odds via Pinnacle Sports
Cardiff City to win: 3.31 (Place a £10 bet to win £33.10)
Everton to win: 2.236 (Place a £10 bet to win £23.60)
Draw: 3.39 (Place a £10 bet to win £33.90)