Weblog: The football punter

Expect a cracker when Cardiff host positive PNE

Sky Bet Championship
Sky Sports Football, 7.45pm Friday

Cardiff were involved in a six-goal thriller on Tuesday - losing 4-2 at home to Fulham - and can play their part in another high-scoring encounter against Preston in the Welsh capital.

With just over half of the Sky Bet Championship season completed Cardiff can be pleased with their progress.

They are averaging a fraction under two points per game (1.96) and their 47-point tally is 20 points higher than they had amassed at the same stage of last season.

However, there are signs that their high intensity, physical style of play is taking its toll on the players.

Neil Warnock's side have suffered back-to-back defeats for the first time this season and seem to have lost the defensive discipline which has been such a key aspect of their progress.

Two games ago Cardiff had the best defensive record in the Sky Bet Championship.

Now it is the third best and they are out of the automatic promotion spots for the first time in over a month.

Warnock was keen to accentuate the positives after the loss to Fulham and spoke of his delight at midfielder Craig Bryson and striker Kenneth Zohore playing a full match on their returns from injury.

Zohore was Cardiff's top scorer last season and quickly got back in the swing of things by notching an excellent goal.

But Warnock's decision to play the Dane for the whole game was a bit of a risk and showed how unhappy he was with his team's performance in a 2-0 loss at Bolton three days previously.

Cardiff have been stretched by injuries for much of the season and the busy Christmas period of four games in ten days was always going to be a major test.

Warnock needs a win from one of the next two games (Cardiff visit QPR on New Year's Day) and he will probably continue with the attack-minded approach which failed against Fulham.

The Cardiff gaffer will be pleased to note that Preston have injury problems in defence with key centre-back Tom Clarke a doubt and full backs Darnell Fisher, Josh Earl and Tommy Spurr ruled out.

However, North End are on an eight-match unbeaten sequence and could climb to within one point of the playoff places if claiming a victory in Cardiff.

Preston have gained a reputation as an attack-minded side under Alex Neil and their fearless attitude helped them to gain a notable
2-1 away win at Bristol City last month.

Neil's players are likely to continue their positive approach and, with both teams pushing for the win, the stage is set for another goal-fest.

Both teams to score

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Match in Focus


Ireland v Wales

Home WinDrawAway Win
Key stats
  • Ireland have won one of their last eight matches.
Expert verdict
Ireland were held to a dull 0-0 draw by a Denmark team missing Christian Eriksen on Saturday and may suffer another stalemate against Wales in Dublin. Only a victory would breathe life into Ireland's hopes of winning League B, Group 4 but they are hard to fancy, having failed of win any of their last four competitive games.