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Preview: Cardiff City vs. Sheffield Wednesday

:Headline: Preview: Cardiff City vs. Sheffield Wednesday:
Sports Mole previews Saturday afternoon's Championship clash between promotion chasers Cardiff City and Sheffield Wednesday.
By , Senior Reporter | 3y

Two Championship promotion-chasing sides face off in South Wales on Saturday afternoon as Cardiff City play host to Sheffield Wednesday.

The Bluebirds currently occupy sixth place in the table, sitting ahead of their opponents thanks to a marginally superior goal difference over the opening 19 games of the campaign.

Cardiff City

Perhaps for the first time during Russell Slade's tenure at the club, Cardiff supporters are slowly beginning to show a little more faith in the former Leyton Orient chief.

The football on offer has been tedious and, some would argue, rather dull at times, but the Bluebirds are the side currently in the driving seat - just about - to claim the sixth and final playoff berth.

It appears as though the division's current top five sides are well positioned to open up the gap over the chasing pack in the second tier, even if Hull City and Burnley are making difficult work of things at the moment.

That could leave just the one spot to play for, and right now any one of seven sides could rightfully claim their place in what is best described as a playoff lottery come the end of the campaign.

To highlight the slim margins, victory for a Cardiff side with just two defeats in their last 11 would see them cement their current position, while defeat could see them fall down as far as 12th place come Saturday evening.

While the victory over a down-and-out Bolton Wanderers side may have looked like a formality last time out, it was a major triumph for Slade at a ground which only one other side has come away from with maximum points this term.

City really did have to dig deep to get over the line, eventually claiming a 3-2 victory thanks to Anthony Pilkington's winner to ensure that Cardiff would end matchday 19 in sixth place rather than down in 11th - fine margins, indeed.

Perhaps the most pleasing aspect of the win was the way in which the Bluebirds scored so freely from open play, something which they had previously failed to do in two months of football since Joe Mason struck against Brighton & Hove Albion in early October.

Now, back on home soil where they have lost just one of 11 games this season, Slade and his side have the chance to finally build some momentum by racking up successive wins for the first time since mid-September.

Recent form in Championship: DLWLDW

Sheffield Wednesday

The general consensus following the bland goalless draw against promotion favourites Derby County last weekend was that Wednesday had gained one point rather than dropping two.

Carlos Carvalhal went as far as saying that he was "proud" of the effort each and every one of his players put in to just about keep the momentum going.

Defeat to Stoke City in the League Cup ended any aspirations the Owls had of reaching the final of a major cup competition, but hopes still very much remain high of a return to top-flight football for the first time in some 15 years.

For that to happen, Wednesday must now look to get back to winning ways in the Championship after taking just six points from the last 15 on offer over the last month or so.

There is certainly no knocking the character shown by the squad, though, as late goals against Huddersfield Town and Blackburn Rovers in recent weeks helped to salvage points that looked to have slipped away.

Wednesday's overall record now stands at one defeat in 13 outings, coming on the back of a disappointing showing when falling to a 3-1 reverse at Charlton Athletic, which ensures that they remain firmly in the chase for a top-six finish.

Carvalhal's biggest task is getting his side to start a little stronger in games, having scored just one goal in the opening 15 minutes of a match thus far, but remaining tough to beat is certainly a key ingredient in any promotion-winning season.

Earning another point at Cardiff to make it three draws on the bounce certainly would not be the worst outcome for Wednesday, who face two bottom-placed sides in their next two outings after this weekend.

Recent form in Championship: WDLWDD
Recent form (all competitions): DLWDLD

Team News

Peter Whittingham was left out by Slade last time out, with the Bluebirds' impressive run without their talismanic midfielder in the side continuing at the Macron Stadium.

That is likely to mean the Cardiff veteran missing out once more, opening the door for Joe Ralls to take up a place in the middle and Pilkington and Craig Noone to occupy the wide berths.

Fabio Da Silva came on as a replacement for Lee Peltier in that win at Bolton, but the Brazilian is yet to reach full fitness himself following a recent layoff and will likely be used sparingly over the next few games.

The visitors face the prospect of being without hamstring victim Tom Lees, meanwhile, and it is also likely that Michael Turner and Vincent Sasso will miss out on the trip to the Welsh capital.

One-time Cardiff target Jack Hunt was among the absentees last time out but will be pushing for a recall, with Glenn Loovens and Sam Hutchinson hoping to prolong their centre-back partnership at the Cardiff City Stadium.

Cardiff City possible starting lineup:
Marshall; Peltier, Morrison, Connolly, Malone; Pilkington, Ralls, Gunnarsson, Noone; Jones, Watt

Sheffield Wednesday possible starting lineup:
Westwood; Palmer, Loovens, Hutchinson, Pudil; Lee, Semedo; Wallace, Hooper, Forestieri; Nuhiu

Head To Head

Cardiff have won four of their last five meetings against Wednesday, with February's 1-1 draw blemishing an otherwise perfect recent record.

The Owls have lost on each of their last five visits to Cardiff, meanwhile, bagging just three goals during that spell.

Pilkington was the hero in this fixture last season when scoring the winner for City shortly after the hour mark.

We say: Cardiff City 1-1 Sheffield Wednesday

This is the first in a run of three tricky fixtures for Cardiff, whose promotion aspirations will become a little clearer come the busy festive period. Opponents Wednesday have become incredibly tough to beat under Carvalhal of late, which will likely continue in South Wales as the two sides - separated by goal difference alone - play out a tight draw.

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