Fasten your seatbelts, April is upon us! Just the eight games in 25 days for quadruple-chasing Manchester City. This could either be the biggest month in the history of our football club or one that leaves us with a Carabao Cup to show for our efforts this campaign.
First up, it’s Neil Warnock’s Cardiff City who travel to the Etihad Stadium on the back of a controversial 1-2 defeat to Chelsea. Psychologically, the Bluebirds couldn’t have asked for a worse fixture with the blues of Manchester in blistering form! Ahead of this one, we spoke to Zach Mallett from ‘The Grange End‘.
Thanks for joining us Zach. It’s just one win in the last five for Cardiff City in what has been a difficult Premier League campaign. How would you assess your season up until this point?
I think most Cardiff fans would be satisfied with our season so far. We’re still in with a chance of survival with seven games left, which is better than most people expected. We’ve received some thrashings and some low moments this season but picked up some huge wins along the way. We’ve had some memorable moments that fans won’t forget anytime soon, including three 90th minute winners! Conceding a 90th minute equaliser at Southampton only to go up the other end of the pitch and score a winner less than two minutes later is a personal highlight! If survival is obtained then it would be an unbelievable achievement and in my opinion Neil Warnock would surely be in the running for Manager of the Year. Whatever happens come May, I’m sure most Cardiff fans will look back at this season proud of their team’s efforts.
With a game in hand over relegation rivals Burnley despite being currently five points adrift of the Clarets, do you still feel Premier League survival is a possibility?
Of course. To even be in this position is an achievement in itself, considering the lack of quality within the squad compared to the teams around us. There’s a huge week coming up this month where we travel to Burnley and Brighton in the space of three days, which will no doubt define our season. Two must win games, where defeat in either one will make relegation look much more likely. An advantage Cardiff have over their relegation rivals is their run-in. Burnley face three of the current top six over the course of their final six games, with trips to Goodison Park and the Vitality Stadium in-between. Cardiff also face three of the current top six during their final seven but face much more favourable fixtures away to Fulham, Burnley and Brighton. We also host Crystal Palace in May which will no doubt be a must win if we are still in the survival race by then.
Neil Warnock was visibly frustrated at the manner in which Cardiff lost their last game against Chelsea, and rightly so! Do you see Cardiff challenging Pep Guardiola’s side in a similar manner at the Etihad Stadium?
To be honest, no. I think the prospect of facing this Man City team is completely different to facing Maurizio Sarri’s Chelsea team. I think Manchester City have shown too much consistency to be troubled as much as Chelsea were. Chelsea have been known to be poor away from home recently and it was a great performance from us to take advantage, only to be denied the points we deserved through poor refereeing decisions. I expect this game to be completely different, as it is arguably the hardest fixture of the season for any team in the Premier League. Most Cardiff fans see this game as a dead rubber and it seems Warnock sees it the same way. I expect a few of our key players to be rested and it seems Warnock just wants to get this game out of the way. I don’t blame him.
Who should Manchester City be looking out for in this fixture and why?
If Manchester City should be wary of any player it is certainly Victor Camarasa. The Spanish midfielder joined on loan from Real Betis in August and he has been a revelation for us. He’s undoubtedly our most talented player whilst also being a calming presence in midfield, not being afraid to put his foot on the ball in the centre of the field. He’s scored some fantastic goals this season, including his volley to give us the lead on Sunday. He also scored a beautiful goal at Leicester to give us the three points in the dying moments at The King Power Stadium. So if there’s any player to look out for, it’s undoubtedly him.
Where do you feel the main battle could take place on the pitch?
Our penalty box! But in all seriousness I expect us to have very little of the ball and have to resort to counter attacks if we are to have any threat on Ederson’s goal. The Man City defence will have a job on their hands to defend the pace of Josh Murphy and Junior Hoilett. If we are to have any chance of coming close to a goal, our decision making when counter attacking will have to be perfect. I can’t see us creating many chances any other way. We’ve created the majority of our chances from wide positions this season and I don’t expect that to change for this fixture.
Who do you feel will go on to win this season’s Premier League title race and do you feel the chance of a City quadruple is even realistic?
I can’t see beyond Manchester City for the league title this season. I believe they have too much quality in depth for Liverpool and are just too consistent to not win it. On the subject of the quadruple, as impossible as it seems, it’s definitely do-able for this Man City team. The quality they have in their forward line with the likes of Sergio Aguero and Raheem Stering is unbelievable and could cause trouble to any team. Their defensive record in the Premier League has also been superb since the turn of the new year and seems to have improved dramatically with the return of Fernandinho to the team. Man City have a great opportunity to complete the domestic treble this year with the lack of top six opponents left in the FA Cup, but Wolves won’t be a walk in the park. I expect this in-form Wolves side to be right up for the Semi-Final and Man City are going to have to be at their best to see off Wolves to progress to the final.
Cardiff City Starting XI prediction and score prediction?
Etheridge – Peltier – Bruno Manga – Morrison – Bennett – Bacuna – Ralls – Camarasa – Mendez-Laing – Zohore – Hoilett. As for a score Prediction: I’m going for a modest 3-0!
You can follow the Grange End on twitter for the number one source for all things Cardiff City: @TheGrangeEnd
You can follow us on twitter here for all things Manchester City: @City_Xtra