Cardiff will be the hosts for West Ham, in one of five 3pm kick offs this Saturday. Both teams will eye this as a vital match since each are in a desperate battle for Premier League survival. In such an instance, the results against those teams around you can define a season and so we can expect both sides to go all out for the win.
Cardiff fans have seen a grand manipulation of their club since the reign of Vincent Tan began, and most recently this has been witnessed through the sacking of Malky Mackay. His replacement – Ole Gunnar Solskjaer – will now be taking the reins in his first ever match as a Premier League manager. He has been quick to make an impact at the South Wales club, winning his first competitive match at Newcastle to send Cardiff through to the fourth round of the FA Cup. Moreover, his knowledge on Norwegian football has been reflected in his early transfer policy with the purchase of Magnus Wolff Eikrem Heerenveen for an undisclosed fee. The Norway international midfielder has worked with Solskjaer before in the Manchester United youth system and at Molde – this being the second time he has been signed by the manager. It is the identical story for fellow Norwegian Mats Moller Daehli, if he is successfully signed as well from Molde. Indeed Solskjaer is making big waves at his new club and will be looking to further do so with a positive result in this, a winnable match.
While the signs are optimistic in Wales, they are less so in London; at least for West Ham in any case. The Hammers have just suffered a week of cup humiliation – a 5 – 0 loss to Nottingham Forest in the FA Cup, and a second defeat to Manchester City, 6 – 0 in the Capital One Cup. Similar to their opponents, there is managerial drama currently afoot with Sam Allardyce admitting he could be sacked as manager of West Ham, this before a letter was realised by the clubs hierarchy refuting that admission and offering him their backing. Certainly it would be no great shock if Allardyce were sacked despite taking West Ham back into the Premier League. The club is now in a desperate fight for survival, and as has been proven in the past radical measures are often the best solution in this scenario. Cardiff, Crystal Palace and Sunderland are all showing signs of resurgence, and if West Ham do not begin to do so as well then they may well become favourites for the drop.
Peter Whittingham is Cardiff’s longest serving player and my key man for this match. He is the Welsh outfit’s most attacking midfielder and regularly plays a pivotal role in any attacking move. He has made both the most accurate forward passes and the most successful final third passes for the club. As one might expect, this has led him to become Cardiff’s most creative player having created a total of 35 chances for his teammates. Only Fraizer Campbell has made more open play chances than him, but Whittingham has comfortably created the most chances from set pieces with 22, and has 4 assists to show for it. He also provides a more direct threat having had the most shots (34) in the entire team. 10 of these were blocked, but he has scored twice from the 22 that weren’t. If Cardiff are to be victorious in this match and survive in the league then they will need this man on top form.
It’s hard to say whether any player has been particularly outstanding for West Ham so far this season, but Mohamed Diame has arguably made the biggest impact in an all-round manner. He provides a notable contribution in all of areas of defence, midfield and attack; and in defence, he has made the most tackles (50) in the entire team. He has also entered into the most ground duels in the team (233) although he as won under half of these. Still, if he is entering into a ground duel every 6.37 minutes then he is certainly putting some pressure on the opposition when they are in possession, which is very important in this league. As I have said he also contributes well from midfield and has created 14 chances, 13 of these from open play giving him one assist. His capacity to run with the ball at his feet is impressive for such a large man and he has attempted 95 dribbles so far in the league. His completion rate will have to improve though, as it currently sits at 46%. As well as the most dribbles he also has the most shots (42), and if he can convert on his impressive strike rate then West Ham will have a strong chance against Cardiff.
West Ham have won 5 games against Premier League teams this season. 4 of those wins have come against either Cardiff or Tottenham.
Cardiff and West Ham have averaged 2.4 goals per game in their last 9 matches against each other.
Bellamy, Mutch, Taylor and Theophile Catherine make up the whole of Cardiff’s injury list, none of whom have a specific return date set yet.
West Ham’s most pressing injury concern is Andy Carroll, as much of their play last went through him. He will be out until mid-January and West Ham will be desperate to get him back. Tomkins and Collins are also big names that are missing, each with no return date. Vaz Te and Reid will also miss this one.
Winner Sports Odds
As is to be expected, the home team are the favourites for this one with Winner Sports putting them at evens to win. West Ham on the other hand are at 4.2 with a draw coming in at 3.5.
If we take a look at the key men – Whittingham has odds of 4.33 to score at any time and Diame 5.5. Both sides struggle for goals so rely on the entire team to chip in rather than rely on set goal scorers. All odds via Winner Sports where you can pick up a £25 free bet when you open an account!
Cardiff have the potential to go on a very positive run under the new manager, whilst West Ham seem caught in a downward spiral. Cardiff will also have at least one new face in the squad and so I will predict a home win for the Bluebirds.
Cardiff win : 3 – 0