Cardiff v Sheff Wed: Ralls can lead Bluebirds’ challenge

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CHAMPIONSHIP specialist James O'Rourke (@JamesOR1) shares his thoughts on Friday night's fixture between Cardiff and Sheffield Wednesday.

Cardiff v Sheffield Wednesday | Friday 18th October 2019, 19:45 | Sky Sports

With the international break out of the way we get back into the swing of things in the Championship on Friday night when Cardiff welcome Sheffield Wednesday to the Welsh capital.

Bluebirds boss Neil Warnock has lamented the fact this game is indeed on the Friday considering some of his players won’t arrive until the day before from international duty.

Cardiff were unbeaten in their previous five in league and cup prior to losing away at West Brom and one defeat in their last eight Championship encounters resembles good form, although they’re looking to bounce back from that solitary loss. Losing away at West Brom is no disgrace, although they have greater expectations on home soil.

Garry Monk has now had six games in the Owls job, gaining three victories. This has helped move them up the table and know a positive outcome here would take them into a play-off position before the rest of the league plays on Saturday and Sunday.

Consistency has ultimately been Wednesday's issue this season as they haven’t won back-to-back since beating Reading and Barnsley in their opening two games under the management of then-caretaker Lee Bullen.

Home comforts for Bluebirds

What has become pretty obvious is that Cardiff much prefer it at home than away. Results are dictating that and Warnock himself has practically conceded that fact. Whilst that is frustrating, you are ultimately always judged on how you do at home. The adage of ‘win your home games and draw away’ perhaps has a degree of truth about it. Cardiff have 13 points at home compared to three away so far.

Even Fulham when they were flying a few weeks ago came to Cardiff and came away with a point, a result which possibly pleased them more in the end than the team in the blue. This Cardiff team really is a Neil Warnock team now and a big part of that is how they start games and making opponents feel very uneasy on the road.

The former Sheff Utd boss will forget about their away troubles for now and focus on winning this home game. It is likely to be a bit of a tactical battle with Monk likely to deploy counter attacking tactics on the night, something Cardiff themselves do prefer to do a lot of the time.

Monk to unleash away day blueprint

Monk has taken charge of three away games since his appointment at Hillsborough, winning two of those. The win at Huddersfield is likely to be how he sets up his side moving forward on the road. This is to sit back, invite pressure to a degree and pick your moments to break forward. Having said that, not long after they went to Middlesbrough and smashed in four goals before half time! That surely was a bit of a freak.

I mentioned above how both teams do like to play on the break, and considering that both Cardiff and Sheff Wed are among the bottom-six in the league in relation to average percentage figures, then it is pretty accurate to say that. That therefore presents something of an intriguing conundrum going into this one.

You could argue it will suit Sheff Wed more, as Cardiff at home will naturally be expected to be the more positive, and the crowd will demand it.

Only five other clubs have more away points than the Owls this season, and their home form isn’t too shabby either. They have only been involved in one draw out of 13 matches overall so far, which suggests they’re either one or other, although these have mostly been tight clashes.

Wednesday's games are averaging around 2.30 goals; one of the lowest in the division.

The betting angles

It is always tough to judge games following the international break as many players have been away and preparations for this won’t be ideal, especially with it being on a Friday. I find it hard to be too overly committal, even with Cardiff so strong at home. I think the bet-builder has to be called upon.

Cardiff are clearly tough to beat at home, so Cardiff Double Chance will form part of the selection. Over 0 First Half Goals will be the second part considering that 8/11 of Cardiff and Sheff Wed’s Championship matches this season has done so. On those numbers alone it has to be worthy sticking to.

Under 5 Goals will complete this bet-builder trio for a number of reasons. Only three of Cardiff’s and Sheff Wed’s league matches this season out of 22 combined as seen at least five goals within. This will be a tactical game and as such I tend to think high-scoring matches rarely occur when that is the case. Plenty of respect will be shown. 6/5 (Bet365) for this play isn’t bad value.

Finally, I am prepared to throw something at Joe Ralls Anytime Goalscorer at 11/2 (Betway). He has been injured for the last two games but every expectation is that he will be fine for this, especially having had the international break to rest further. Leonardo Bacuna is one who may return late for international duty, so Warnock will want him ready.

Despite missing the last two games, he is still the second-highest in the Cardiff team in relation to shots on goal with 18. Only striker Robert Glatzel has more. This shows he is prepared for have a go and he already has two goals to his name, meaning he is again second to Glatzel in the club top scorer category.

As I suspect this could be tactical, it means set pieces will come into the equation and Ralls is prepared to have a go, or even from general open play from distance.

Best Bets

Cardiff v Sheff Wed – Cardiff Double Chance, Over 0 First Half Goals and Under 5 Goals (Bet365)

Cardiff v Sheff Wed – Joe Ralls to score at anytime (11/2 Betway)

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