Cardiff entertain Stoke at home on the weekend looking to make it back-to-back wins for the first time this season. After cutting the gap to safety to only three points last week, a win here would make the bottom half of the table even tighter, with a cluster of teams still in the thick of a relegation dog fight. The away side sit in the top half of the table after a run of good results and will hope to consolidate their 10th place position even further.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s men pulled off a surprising upset away to Southampton last Saturday. A ground which has been notoriously difficult for most teams didn’t seem so much for Cardiff after they picked up a 1-0 win thanks to a Juan Cala strike. That win, coupled with other results down at the bottom has given the Bluebirds hope, after being all but written off just a few weeks ago. However, Cardiff have only won two of their last ten fixtures and if they are to secure a second season in the Premier League, they will have to improve upon their form with only four games to go.
Stoke City have been in top form of late with five wins in their last seven games which has propelled them into the top half. This was a far cry to the team, who were at one point fighting relegation, but results of late, especially at home have seen them cross the 40 point mark which teams normally look for to avoid the drop. Their only recent blip came in their last away match in which they lost 3-0 to Chelsea but bounced back well to secure a 1-0 home win against Newcastle last week.
Their first encounter back in early December saw the two teams cancel each other out in a goalless draw at the Britannia Stadium with Cardiff’s former boss Malky Mackay in charge.
Cardiff go into the game without influential midfielder Craig Noone who is sidelined with an abdominal strain. John, Taylor, Hudson and Turner are all still injured whereas Kenwyne Jones will have a late fitness test to determine whether he can play any part.
Stoke are without key defender Robert Huth for the rest of the season whilst Matthew Etherington is also missing with a back injury. The good news for the Potters is that Assaidi, on loan from Liverpool, will have a late fitness test after recovering from a knee injury.
- Cardiff are without a win in seven against Stoke in all competitions, drawing three and losing four.
- Only 10 of Stoke’s 43 points this season have come away from home.
- Cardiff have conceded a league high nine goals in the 90th minute this season.
- Stoke have won 16 of the last 21 points available to them.
- Cardiff have not won back to back top-flight games since April 1962.
- Cardiff’s Steven Caulker and Stoke’s Ryan Shawcross are two of only three outfield players in the Premier League this season to play every minute of every game for their club.
Cardiff: Steven Caulker
Steven Caulker has been a stand-out player for Cardiff this season both defensively at times, but also surprisingly for his attacking work as well. During parts of the season Caulker has shown some great defensive qualities managing to make a total of 63 ground duels, winning an impressive 71% of them as well as winning 67% of his 37 tackles, helping Cardiff to 7 clean sheets this season. The young English defender is mostly known for his aerial ability which has helped him to defend, attempting 214 aerial duels and winning 60%. Caulker has also managed five goals in the league with all of them coming against sides currently in the bottom six including goals in both wins against fellow strugglers Fulham, a goal in their 3-3 draw against West Brom and the only goal in their win against Swansea.
Stoke: Marko Arnautovic
Arnautovic has had a decent first season with his new team and has picked up his game in the past few weeks and has found some great form. The attacking midfielder should see this as a game to exploit Cardiff’s weak defence with his technical abilities. With only 2 goals to his name this season he has shown that goal scoring is not one of his main strengths but will want to show that he can be a threat in front of goal. With that being said he has made up for that it with his creativity, which has definitely been one of his assets this season with a total of 37 chances created, six of those being assists, with a chance created every 50 minutes. With big strikers like Peter Crouch and Jonathan Walters in the team, it is players like Arnautovic’s duty to provide good service into the box, which he has done exceptionally well with 32% of 87 crosses on target; this could be key if they are to score against Cardiff on Saturday.
Cardiff have no choice to come out with all guns blazing in one of only two home games left in the season. This tactic could go for or against them but a win here is a must to keep up with the teams around them. That being said, I think the crowd will push the team on to win all three points against Stoke