Date and Time: Saturday 22nd December (15:00)
Venue: Cardiff City Stadium
Referee: Michael Oliver
Cardiff City will be looking to cause a huge upset when hosting Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City in the Welsh Capital this weekend.
This will be the Bluebirds first game at the Cardiff City Stadium since suffering a 3-2 loss to Arsenal in a five-goal thriller before the international break.
Last weekend, Cardiff were put to the sword by Chelsea as Belgian wizard Eden Hazard bagged a hat-trick for Maurizio Sarri’s men.
But that’s not to say that they didn’t put up a fight because, defender Sol Bamba did give them a shock lead at Stamford Bridge, before eventually succumbing to a 4-1 loss at Chelsea.
There were definitely positives for Cardiff to take from that game, though. It was not only impressive but refreshing to see how high they pushed Chelsea and the credit has to be given to Neil Warnock for his positive approach to the game.
The problem Cardiff are having at the moment though is that they’re making too many errors defensively – and that cost them big time against Chelsea last weekend, who were clinical in attack, especially in the second half when they turned the heat up on the Bluebirds.
They will arguably face just as tough a test this weekend against Pep Guardiola’s men at the Cardiff City Stadium, but Warnock can take confidence that Manchester City did lose their first UEFA Champions League group stage match in the week as they suffered a 2-1 home defeat to Lyon at the Etihad Stadium.
But that’s not to say Manchester City won’t cause the Bluebirds problems because they have world class players all over the pitch at the end of the day, especially when you have the likes of Leroy Sane, Sergio Aguero and David Silva on your side.
In their last Premier League encounter, they comfortably beat Fulham 3-0 at the Etihad Stadium and they will be looking to replicate a performance like that against another one of the promoted sides in the Bluebirds this weekend.
They’re players who Cardiff will need to keep a close eye on at all stages, because when they’re in full flow, it is no doubt that Manchester City are one of the best, if not, the best attacking side in the Premier League.
Last season proved that as they ended up winning the league by a total of 19 points, hitting 100-points in the process, as well as scoring a whopping 106 goals in their 38 Premier League encounters.
Sergio Aguero is perhaps Manchester City’s biggest threat going forward and the Argentine striker has already buried three goals in five games for the Citizens so far this season, as well as chipping in with two assists and he is certainly a player that the likes of Sean Morrison and Sol Bamba will need to keep a close eye on, especially if they’re to overcome the challenge of the Champions.
The Bluebirds don’t have a bad record against Manchester City of late, despite suffering a 2-0 FA Cup loss to Guardiola’s side last season, the last time the two sides met in the Premier League at the Cardiff City Stadium, the Bluebirds prevailed, winning a five-goal thriller 3-2 during the 2013/2014 season.
They have had more special moments against Manchester City over the years, too. In 1994, Nathan Blake scored the only goal in a memorable FA Cup win over the Citizens for the Bluebirds which saw them advance to the fifth round of the most prestigious Cup competition in the world.
The referee who will take care of proceedings for today’s encounter comes in the form of Michael Oliver, who took charge of Cardiff’s trip to Huddersfield Town earlier on in the season – the 33-year-old, from Ashington, also made the decision to send off Jonathan Hogg for an altercation with Bluebirds midfielder, Harry Arter.
Oliver has taken charge of four games so far this season, including the Bluebirds’ Premier League fixture at the Kirklees Stadium, producing seven yellow cards and two red cards in total.
This is another game that Cardiff aren’t expected to win, but picking up points against last year’s Champions could act as a bonus, especially heading into next week’s monumental clash against Burnley in the Welsh Capital, which will also be featured on Sky Sports.
Prediction: Cardiff City 1-2 Manchester City
This will be a difficult test for the defending Champions, make no mistake about that. Cardiff are proved to be a bit of a tricky outfit for the big sides to face already this season, and they are definitely capable of causing the Citizens problems at the back.
But you feel, eventually, that City may have too much firepower for the Bluebirds and can see them sneaking this one 2-1 – they will also be keen to make amends for losing against Lyon in the Champions League during the week.
Cardiff are still without the injured Josh Murphy, who has a hamstring problem. Nathaniel Mendez-Laing is a long-term absentee – Icelandic midfielder Aron Gunnarsson could feature at some point on Saturday.
The Champions, on the other hand, are without playmaker Kevin De Bruyne. Sergio Aguero could start after coming off the bench against Lyon in midweek. Benjamin Mendy may miss out yet again through an ankle injury.
(Featured image: Jon candy)