After a weeks break due to FA Cup elimination last month, Cardiff City returned to Premier League action for the first of two home games in the next few days as they welcome Javi Gracia’s European pushing Watford side. After Cardiff achieved back to back top flight wins for the first time in over 50 years, a hat trick of victories is now the target for Neil Warnock’s gutsy side. With Watford star man Roberto Pereyra being declared fit and Cardiff welcoming back Spaniard Victor Camarasa, perhaps the pendulum has already taken a swing in The Bluebirds direction?
Watford have won the last two meetings between the two clubs, but were winless in the previous six, stretching back to a 4-2 defeat in January 2011. The last time The Hornets came to Cardiff City Stadium ended victory for the Bluebirds. Cardiff stunned the away side and raced to a 3-1 half time lead, Craig Bellamy and Michael Chopra both finding the net before Will Buckley halved the deficit, only for Jay Bothroyd to extend The Bluebirds lead. Marvin Sordell scored shortly after half time to give the visitors some hope, however Cardiff saw the game out easily after Gábor Gyepes scored a fourth for The Bluebirds.
In this season’s earlier encounter, Watford put in a commanding performance to claim all three points despite a late fightback from Cardiff. It took The Hornets just 16 minutes to take the lead, Gerard Deulofeu weaved between tame tackles before sliding past Neil Etheridge to give the home side a deserved lead. Just seven minutes into the second half and Watford doubled their lead, a stunning curling effort from José Holebas beautifully found the top corner past a helpless Etheridge. Cardiff’s keeper was beaten once again with 22 minutes to go, another stunning curling effort from distance as Domingos Quina bagged his first professional goal. Cardiff then attempted a late fightback, firstly it was the third curling effort from outside the box that brought them back into it as Junior Hoilett bagged his second goal in four games. Bobby Decordova-Reid then stabbed home following a small session of penalty area pinball to set up a grandstand final ten minutes in which they couldn’t force a miraculous equaliser.
Key Match-Up: Sol Bamba vs Troy Deeney
Troy Deeney is well known for his bullish and tenacious approach, and in Sol Bamba he is coming up against one of the standout defenders in the Premier League this season. Bamba’s deceiving turn of pace and dominance in the air will prove to be the perfect physical match up with Deeney for the neutral fans to keep an eye on.
Deeney has just five goals this season and none in his last five Premier League games, but any Premier League fan will know that he is a striker that offers more than just goals, his overall hold up play, high pressing and link up play to bring in players like Gray and Deulofeu is second to none and will cause any central defender nightmares. Bamba arguably has his biggest test to date and it will be an interesting watch to see who comes out on top.
With Cardiff riding high off their stunning late victory against Southampton last time out, confidence will be high heading back home to play in front of another sell out crowd at the Cardiff City Stadium, however Watford’s quick tempo and expansive football could easily make it a difficult evening for Neil Warnock’s men. With passion running as high as always in South Wales that could be more than enough to see Cardiff pick up a positive result here, but Watford’s undoubted quality, especially with star man Roberto Pereyra returning, should be enough to stop Cardiff’s threats and grab a hard earned draw away from home.
Predicted Line Up’s:
Cardiff City: Etheridge, Peltier, Manga, Bamba, Bennett, Gunnarsson, Arter, Camarasa, Paterson, Decordova-Reid & Niassé.
Watford: Foster, Janmaat, Mariappa, Cathcart, Holebas, Doucouré, Capoue, Hughes, Pereyra, Deulofeu & Deeney.