Swansea vs Cardiff | Saturday 20th March 2021, 17:30 | Sky Sports
The 111th South Wales derby will commence on early Saturday evening with both Swansea and Cardiff looking to maintain their respective promotion pushes. The Bluebirds have a seven-game edge in the overall head-to-head figures, but they are winless in the last four against their big rivals.
Steve Cooper’s men will be eager to get back on the pitch as quickly as possible after a night to forget in Bournemouth in midweek when falling to a 3-0 defeat. For all that the Swans have one of the best defensive records in the Championship they have shipped 3+ goals in four of their last 10 in all competitions, but we will concede that one of those was against the juggernaut that is Manchester City in the FA Cup.
Performance levels have dropped in recent times according to the Jack Army, even losing just once in five. Cooper himself has defended their style over recent times, stating the schedule of the league means you can’t be at your best all the time. Whilst that is true, you fell a result like at Bournemouth was coming, and they now need to bounce back in what is arguably the best possible game to respond in.
Just for Cardiff to even be involved in the play-off picture is a triumph in itself considering they were 13 points off the top-six before the former Ireland manager took the job in January. That gap closed completely when they indeed jumped into those positions not so long ago, but a run of one win in five, as well as the predictable Manager of the Month curse has seem them drop out and another gap has materialised.
They’re now winless in three, of which they failed to score in two of those. As a club, Cardiff very rarely win away on enemy territory, the last time being 2011 when a late Craig Bellamy goal secured a 1-0 victory, in a campaign where both outfits ended the season on 80 points.
With that being the case, I think McCarthy would be delighted to leave here with a point, regardless of the fact they need wins to get back into the play-offs. It is worth noting that they follow up this trip to Swansea with three very winnable matches after the international break with home clashes with Nottingham Forest and Blackburn and a trip to struggling Sheffield Wednesday.
Cardiff are struggling for goals, and in a way so are Swansea. They’ve just not looked themselves over the last period of time. We naturally associated them with their possession-based style, building up from the back and getting their creative players on the ball in advanced positions to ultimately provide the supply for the likes of Andre Ayew.
Something just isn’t clicking at the moment, but I fully accept it can so easily return, possibly this weekend. They’ve developed a habit of sitting on leads, and whilst it has often worked for them, it is just allowing the opposition to put them under big pressure in their own defensive third, and from time-to-time you’ll get caught out.
If they were to score early this Saturday and then sit back whilst Cardiff get bodies forward, hurl those Will Vaulks long throw-ins and just generally cause havoc in the box, then I’d worry for them.
That being said, I don’t think either team really approach this game in the best possible way. I fully accept the schedule means that will happen for some teams. I am in the camp that this is a good game at a good time for both outfits, but at the same time I just have this nagging feeling it is one where both would rather not lose more than anything.
Swansea still have a game in-hand on Watford in second, and with the exception of a potentially defining final game of the season at Vicarage Road, you’d still expect Swansea to win the majority of their remaining contests.
Saturday isn’t a defining game for either team this season, but local bragging rights do come into the equation, even without fans in the stadium. Certainly Cardiff would be delighted with a point, and Swansea wouldn’t be massively unhappy, either.
With that being the case, and both outfits not being themselves of late, I am quite happy to put forward the Draw at 21/10 (Betfred). I was surprised to see that only one of the last nine meetings has in fact finished level, but that came last January when Cooper led Swansea and the vast majority of Cardiff’s squad is still the same, when Neil Harris was the boss.
McCarthy is also yet to lose an away game since taking the helm, and these have all been close matches. Swansea’s league matches are averaging only 2.00 goals across the campaign, but in home games that number drops a little more.
I’m even prepared to throw in the prospect of a 0-0 Correct Score here at 71/10 (VBet). I’m not trying to put you off watching this game, far from it, but I think this is another case of where fans really are needed in the stadium.
It’ll still be competitive and potentially fiery, but with both teams stumbling of late I don’t see this being a classic. Six of the past seven H2H encounters finished under 2.5 goals, including five below 1.5, so goals aren’t normally the way this contests goes.
I’m into my player card markets at the moment and with this being a big derby game then I’ve got to tip up a selection in this market. There was a red card in the last meeting when Joe Ralls received his second booking with just over twenty minutes remaining as the Bluebirds went down 2-0 at home. There was six bookings overall that time, and the same applies to the H2H before that. I’ll throw two names for you.
I’m expecting Marlon Pack to keep his place in central midfield for the hosts after he was withdrawn for the starting eleven for two games, of which his side failed to win. He was a huge part of their lengthy unbeaten streak when starting six in a row (W5, D1) across February, and his presence will be key in a big game like this. 5/1 (Bet365) on him picking up a card is big, especially as he was booked against Stoke during the week.
I was going to throw Jamal Lowe into the mix, especially at 17/2 (Bet365) but I have my doubts on if he’ll start or not, so possibly wait for team news on that one. I only suggest him as he has committed a whopping 28 more fouls than any other Swansea player in Championship action this season, but only one yellow.
I am a little more sweet on backing is Kieffer Moore at 6/1 (Bet365). I tipped him up in a recent Cardiff game and it didn’t pay off, but I still don’t think he should be as big as this for someone who has committed the most fouls in the Cardiff squad and was booked in the last head-to-head meeting.
He may only have four yellows to his name this season but he’ll put himself about, especially with Swansea likely to dominate the ball so he’ll have to do a lot of pressing and chasing from the front.