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EFL Preview Special – Swansea v Cardiff

Undrafted are back with an EFL preview that’s a little different this week, as we’re handing the entire article over to just one match. Sunday midday sees the return of the South Wales derby as Cardiff City travel to the Liberty Stadium to take on arch-rivals Swansea. Both teams are at the wrong end of the league, for different reasons and facing different pressures, we break it down below.

South Wales Derby

Sunday 17th October, midday kick off, Sky Sports Football

Swansea City – Finding their feet under Martin?

Russell Martin walked into this job knowing he had an uphill battle to keep the Swans in the top half of the Championship. The team had big holes to fill with the departures of Ayew, Guehi and Woodman, and a third playoff finish looked beyond them. Some experts even predicted they’d struggle to avoid relegation. Whilst they sit in 19th place currently, just like Barnsley and Preston, it’s their inability to turn draws into wins that has put them there rather than a long string of defeats. Two of their defeats have come to promotion challengers, and they have only lost one of their last six.

Perhaps most pleasing for Swansea has been the arrival of our one-to-watch Joel Piroe for £1m from PSV Eindhoven, who has scored six goals in eleven games. The quality of some of these finishes, Huddersfield in particular have been remarkable. Fellow summer signing Jamie Paterson has also done well and he will likely start this game, in what has become a settled group, playing a consistent 3-4-2-1 under Martin’s watchful eye.

Swansea come into this game with a strong squad following the return to training of Oliver Ntcham, Ryan Bennett and Michael Obafemi.

LUTON, ENGLAND – SEPTEMBER 18: Joel Piroe of Swansea City celebrates his goal during the Sky Bet Championship match between Luton Town and Swansea City at Kenilworth Road on September 18, 2021 in Luton, England. (Photo by Athena Pictures/Getty Images)

Cardiff City – Mick’s last stand?

When Rubin Colwill netted the 73rd minute winner away to Nottingham Forest to push the Bluebirds up to 8th in the Championship few would have believed the slump his team would find themselves in one month later. Mick McCarthy stated after the game that “Management can sometimes look easy, can’t it”. 

Cardiff recorded 22 shots in that game, and it would take them 250 minutes to record their next 22, which would end a goal drought providing a consolation goal in a 5-1 loss against Blackburn. As if the misery of that game was not enough, the next home game against West Brom would see Mick play five centre-backs as his team limped to a 0-4 loss without recording a single shot on target. In fact, since their last victory, Cardiff have scored just one goal, and conceded twelve.

It’s clear that Mick is unsure of his best eleven by this point, each game seems to feature a different combination of players, and an array of formations more vast than offered by the FIFA video games. Reading: 4-2-3-1; West Brom 3-4-1-2; Bournemouth: 5-4-1; Forest: 4-1-3-2; Millwall 3-4-3. Perhaps most worrying is the lack of attacking threat offered, in 11 games. Kieffer Moore, James Collins and Mark Harris has scored 1 goal, and have 1 assist between them. To make matters worse, Moore may be unavailable for this game following a head injury for Wales on Monday night against Estonia.

Lose this game and surely it’s curtains for Mick.

Credit: Cardiff City

Swansea v Cardiff: The Game – how it plays out

What makes this game so fascinating is the contrasting elements between the clubs. Russell Martin in just his 95th game as manager, Mick McCarthy by comparison has 1,024 under his belt. Swansea playing possession football, happy to control the game in the opposition half utilising short passes, individual skill and through balls to make the difference. Cardiff preferring to disrupt their opposition in order to create opportunities, content to allow the opposition to have the ball in order to force a mistake. 

No team has had more shots, or scored more goals, from set-plays this season than Cardiff. Interestingly, chances created from open play are equal between the two sides. This game may come down, therefore, to how well Swansea can make use of their possession and defend from set-pieces. Luckily, for Swansea, they are one of the better teams in the Championship at doing this, along with their neighbours, and opposition on Sunday. However, those set-pieces which have made the target have caused trouble for the Swans, in fact, 1 in 3 goals conceded this season has been from set-pieces. 

This game will be close, only four goals have been scored across the past four games. Recent history favours the Away team if there is to be a victor as well. For me, this game will be won and lost in two areas. Firstly, which teams dominates midfield, with Grimes and Downes of Swansea likely facing off against Vaulks and Pack for Cardiff. Here, I fancy Pack to disrupt and frustrate the balance of play and force loss of possession. Secondly, as stated above, the set-play, with Pack, Flint, Morrison ready to pounce on opportunities and Colwill and Giles able to recycle balls from these to extend the threat. 

Credit: WDSportz

Swansea v Cardiff: The Verdict

I’ve made a compelling case here as to why Swansea should win this game, however, this fixture has a history of rewarding the team under pressure, backed into a corner and ready to claw their way to victory. This will not be a pretty match, and it will suit Cardiff. If Swansea win, the goal will be a breakaway, if Cardiff win, it will be a smash-and-grab victory. That’s why I believe with two weeks to prepare a defensive unit, Cardiff will get this one over the line. 

Swansea City 0-1 Cardiff City

Goalscorer: Either Marlon Pack or Aden Flint

Best Bets:

Marlon Pack to score, Cardiff to win: 11/1

Aden Flint to score a header: 16/1

Cardiff to win to nil: 7/2

Exactly 1 goal: 3/1

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