Cardiff City v Newcastle United
Premier League, Kick-Off:Saturday 18th August, 12.30pm. Live on Sky Sports
THE novelty of again being a Premier League outfit lasted for around 24 minutes for Cardiff City in their season opener last weekend. Furthermore, they could have been 2-0 down after just 34 minutes, but for a penalty save. Cardiff have a tough season ahead and if they didn't already know it, then they do now.
In fairness, Cardiff were hugely improved in their second half showing against Bournemouth last Saturday, and new signing Josh Murphy seemed to elevate the Welsh side on his second half entrance. Scoring chances were certainly there for Cardiff, for Sean Morrison and Bobby Reid especially in the second half, however the old cliché of ‘things not falling their way' on the afternoon held somewhat true.
The visit of Newcastle will be a tough test today for Cardiff, after the former gave a solid showing against a full-strength Spurs last weekend. The Magpies were resolute in defence and looked decent in attack also, despite going down 2-1. They could well have scored more than just the one goal, but for some wasteful touches in the Spurs' 6 yard box. The apparent unrest behind the scenes at Newcastle United certainly did not show itself on the pitch last weekend and Newcastle will be hoping to leave the Welsh Capital with all 3 points.
Cardiff's Aron Gunnarsson is suffering with a knee injury and his midfield influence will be missing for a “couple of weeks” according to Neil Warnock. First choice striker Kenneth Zohore should however return to lead the line against Newcastle after his recent groin injury. Deadline-day signing Harry Arter will likely be given a starting berth and his pace and deadly passing-accuracy should make the Republic of Ireland international an instant hit with the ‘blue-army'.
Newcastle's new acquisition Salomon Rondon may well be given a start at Cardiff, after the Venezuelan brought an added intensity for the Magpies during his second half appearance from the bench last week on his club debut. Fellow new signing Yoshinori Muto also gave a good showing in front of the fans last weekend on debut and will likely be on show in South Wales. Argentinian Federico Fernandez remains injured as does Florian Lejeune who is out with a knee injury. There are no other injury concerns.
To my mind, I see Cardiff struggling again today, despite the guarantee of a rousing home support. I cannot help but see this Cardiff squad as still a current work-in-progress and the cohesion just isn't there at the moment. Warnock needs to decide on his best 11, and very quickly. There are also some defensive issues in need of address by Warnock, given the step-up in level to the Premier League. The 4-1-4-1 formation just didn't seem to work last time out for Cardiff and hopefully the 4-3-3 may suit better here today. Despite some shrewd signings by Warnock this summer, I feel that this squad needs more time to gel as show at Bournemouth last time out. The absence of Gunnarsson is absolutely huge here today and on so many occasions he has turned a Cardiff game on it's head in the past.
Cardiff will struggle to keep the immense creativity of Matt Ritchie from the right side of midfield at bay. Add to that the presence of Jonjo Shelvey in the middle of the park, who I think was unlucky not to be on the plane to Russia this Summer, and it is evident that Cardiff will be in for a long afternoon. Rondon looked hungry on his debut last week, and with the provision of excellent service into the big Venezuelan, I can see him making his mark here at some point throughout the 90 minutes. For that reason, Salomon Rondon seems a reasonable anytime goal-scorer shout at 12-5 (Ladbrokes). Newcastle offered a great deal of promise against the Spurs backline last weekend and despite relatively slow starts to their Newcastle careers, I can see ‘Joselu' Sanmartin and Ayoze Perez developing into strong members of their team. I can see Newcastle's combined threat of creativity and pace resulting in at least 2 goals. For that reason, I fancy the 7-4 odds being offered about Newcastle to score 2+ Team goals (Ladbrokes). Given Cardiff's defensive vulnerability at this level, I think this offers great value and is the NAP here today.
I can also see Cardiff hitting the target. I think Harry Arter supplying good balls into feet for target-man Kenneth Zohore may well prove fruitful. Zohore has the potential to get on the scoresheet, however for a little more value, I fancy splitting a point between both Sean Morrison at 13-2 (Ladbrokes) and Sol Bamba at a huge 10-1 odds (Ladbrokes) for anytime goal-scorer tips. Cardiff's ‘Captain Fantastic', Sean Morrison, scored 7 goals last season, with 6 coming from set plays.
At times last season, it appeared that there were magnets on the defender's head and ball alike. which is backed up by the stat of him winning more aerial duels than any other Championship defender last season (7.6 average per game) and being much the case whether being in his own box or the oppositions.
On the other hand, fellow defender Sol Bamba, who equally likes to maraud forwards on set plays, scored 4 goals last season from his defensive position and most of these were hugely pivotal goals. Bamba raises his game another notch in front of the home support, as evidenced when he scored the winning goal in the ‘Severn Derby' against Bristol City on his home debut. I think chancing a Bamba goal in this important game for Cardiff could be well worth a try. This is an important match for both clubs, in terms of determining early-season indicators and I think it could be ‘cometh the hour, cometh Sol Bamba'.
Cardiff often fare well at home, winning 8 of 12 home games since the turn of the year in 2018, however this was against mainly Championship opposition. Newcastle often struggle away from home in the Permier League, as indicated by their 2 wins out of 11 away games since the start of 2018. I can see an open and entertaining game, although ultimately one where Newcastle outscore Cardiff and I expect a 2-1 or 3-1 win for the travelling Toon to savour as they head back up North. Given these predictions, I think there is big value in the 19-4 (Ladbrokes) for a combined Newcastle win and BTTS (NB bet for the match).