Cardiff City vs Barnsley – Tuesday 9 April – kick off 19.45
David Flitcroft takes his Tykes to the Welsh capital tonight to face Cardiff City. Tom Bestwick previews the action between the Bluebirds and the Reds...
Form over last five league fixtures – D, W, L, W, D
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After two waves of investment, a new stadium and even a total rebrand, Cardiff City look to be on the cusp of joining fellow Welsh outfit, Swansea City, in the Barclays Premier League after suffering play-off heart break for the past three seasons.
The Bluebirds, who are now known as the 'Dragons' after a start of season new look by the club's Malaysian owners - which also controversially included changing the colour of the teams kit from blue to red - boast a wealth of top-class talent within their ranks, whilst also holding a formidable record at their new Cardiff City Stadium, where they have only lost twice during this season. Those defeats coming to the hands of Brighton & Hove Albion, and also Peterborough United.
The past decade has seen Cardiff become a regular visitor to Wembley Stadium. As well as losing in the play-off final to Blackpool at the end of the 2009/10 season. They have also contested an FA Cup final and also Carling Cup final – but came away the losing side on both occasions as they were beaten by Portsmouth and Liverpool, respectively.
After learning his trade at Watford – Malky Mackay took over the Cardiff City hot seat in 2011 after Dave Jones was shown the door for failing to take the side into the top flight. Mackay has also felt the blow of missing out on promotion after his side suffered a 5-0 aggregate defeat to West Ham United, who eventually beat Blackpool in last season’s play-off final. Mackay, though, looks to have done what no previous manager has done before and guide the club into the Premier League for the very first time.
Influential midfielder Peter Whittingham and striker Heidar Helguson look likely to return to the starting line-up. Mackay will be without the services of striker Fraizer Campbell. Former Queens Park Rangers defender Matthew Connolly is also a doubt after limping off in the opening 10 minutes of their goalless stalemate with Watford
Their season so far:
The npower Championship leaders, a position they have had total control of and not lost since December, are a matter of games away from clinching promotion to the top flight. After a slow start to the season in August, the Welsh outfit's season took off in September as they embarked on a run of eight victories in 10 games. Cardiff have been the most consistent side in the division, only losing more than one game in a row once this season, and the 'Dragons' go into this fixture on the back of a 0-0 draw with fellow promotion chasers Watford, and a win tonight will increase the gap on Watford to 11 points with only five games remaining.
Who's their star man?
In terms of goals and assists there has been no particular stand out player for Cardiff. The squads goals have been shared around this season with the top goalscorers all being on eight goals, Peter Whittingham is one of those players, a £350,000 signing from Aston Villa back in 2007, has consistently been linked with teams in the Premier League. The 28-year-old midfielder is a key player for Cardiff, and also has seven assists to the season and possesses a deadly left foot when it comes to set-pieces.
October proved to be a great month for the 'Dragons' after winning four out of their five matches, and they capped off the month by sweeping Burnley away with a 4-0 victory. The result was Malky Mackay's side's seventh successive home victory as first-half goals from Joe Mason and Craig Noone were followed up with late strikes from defender Matthew Connolly and Aron Gunnarson.
Looking at the league table now, it comes as a great surprise that Cardiff suffered their heaviest defeat of the season away at Bristol City, who are currently at the foot of the Championship table. The Robins went into the half time break holding a deserved 2-0 lead courtesy of goals from Stephen Pearson and Martyn Woolford, but Joe Mason halved that deficit just before the hour. Woolford added his second, but despite Heidar Helguson again cutting the lead, striker Sam Baldock added a fourth to end Cardiff's unbeaten start to the season.
Blast from the past:
Cardiff has not been a happy hunting ground for the Tykes; having only won four out of the 20 contests they have battled out with Cardiff City, and the last victory came back in February during the 2009/10 season. Malta international striker Daniel Bogdanovic stunned the hosts with two early goals in the space of four first-half minutes as Barnsley claimed their first double over the Bluebirds in 51 years, and to also put a dent in the home side's play-off ambitions.