The story so far
Five wins, two draws and just the one defeat for Neil Warnock’s Bluebirds - a very decent start for the Welsh side. Cardiff began the season with five straight victories, including a 3-0 home victory over Aston Villa and a 2-1 away win at fellow high-flyers Wolves. August saw Cardiff emerge with a 100% record, but September has highlighted signs of weakness in the Cardiff ranks - the Welsh club have yet to taste victory since the International break.
That being said, Cardiff have had this week off because they were not involved in the Carabao Cup - they lost 2-1 to Burton in the second round - so Neil Warnock has had all week to prepare for the fixture today.
Last time out
Sheffield Wednesday provided the opposition for Cardiff last weekend, and the Yorkshire club nearly took all three points home. Gary Hooper opened the scoring for the visitors on 39 minutes - a strike that looked to be enough for the Owls.
Fortunately for Cardiff though a 95th minute equaliser came virtue of Sol Bamba’s right boot. Lee Tomlin struck a good free kick that Kieran Westwood could only palm out to Mendez-Laing, who then fired the ball across the goal for former Leeds United player Bamba to fire in a last gasp equaliser.
Neil Warnock has been delighted with his side’s ability to stay fit this season - even commenting that he may need to fire his physio staff for not doing any work! But there are still three long term injuries for Cardiff - Callum Patterson, Lee Camp and Rhys Heatley. Admittedly, there could be some doubts for the game but the Cardiff boss likes to play his cards close to his chest.
Cardiff have been so impressive this season that it is difficult to really attribute one player to watch out for. They are a side that looks average on paper - but as a group work as an excellent unit. Ultimately the real dangerman is the gaffer, Neil Warnock - he knows the league so well and can get results through his own experience.
One threat to Sunderland on Saturday, however, will be Nathaniel Mendez-Laing. The former Wolves man has had a journeyman career up until landing at Cardiff where he has excelled. Four goals in eight games this season for the winger Cardiff snapped up on a free transfer from Rochdale in the summer has been a return that I am sure not even Neil Warnock was expecting. Pace power and trickery are Laing’s main attributes, and I am sure he will give our defenders nightmares come Saturday afternoon.
Referee - Peter Bankes
Bankes has refereed Sunderland on one occasion during his five year stint as a Football League official. That game was actually a victory - 2-1 away at QPR in the League Cup. Paddy McNair scored twice as well - a rare shining moment from last season. Hopefully Mr. Bankes can provide the same sort of positive influence on Saturday, because we desperately need it.
Manager - Neil Warnock
Well I think everyone knows who Neil Warnock is, but just incase you don’t... Warnock had a semi successful playing career playing for clubs like Rotherham, Barnsley and Hartlepool, before retiring in 1979 at the age of 30 to focus on his coaching career.
During his long managerial career, the Yorkshireman has managed 16 clubs - including Sheffield United, QPR (twice), Crystal Palace, Leeds United, Rotherham, Huddersfield and of course Cardiff City. He guided Sheffield United to the Premier League in 2006, and was unlucky to be relegated after the whole West Ham Tevez/Mascherano saga. As we stand today, Warnock is a very well respected figure in football who has pretty much done a good job everywhere he has been. Cardiff is possibly his last hurrah in management - and after such a good start to the campaign, Warnock will be hoping that Premier League football awaits him next season.
Cardiff are exactly what you would expect from a Neil Warnock side - hardworking, determined and capable of giving any team a good match. Their strong wingers mean they will always be a threat down the flanks - not ideal for a team who have really struggled against wide-men this season. Cardiff are also great in the air and could pose us problems across the field - expect James Vaughan to struggle against Sol Bamba and Sean Morrison.
Cardiff, like Sunderland, prefer to play the long ball - and both sides seem to be poor at keeping it. Cardiff do have the unique weapon of Aron Gunnarsson - who possesses a Rory Delap-esque throw. This will undoubtedly cause us problems and make every throw in our defensive third an attacking set piece.
Where can we hurt Cardiff? Keeping it tight and not letting them bully us. They will come with a gameplan of being defensively solid, and our best tactic could be to do the same. This may be a game of chicken to see who risks the victory by leaving themselves open at the back; however, hopefully from a spectator’s perspective that is not the case!
Predicted line ups
Cardiff generally line up with a 4-2-3-1 formation - notably they have pace on the wings and defensively rely on Sol Bamba and captian Sean Morrison to keep the opposition at bay. Cardiff have a strong engine room with Joe Ralls and Aron Gunnarsson providing the legs for the midfield. Former Derby midfielder Craig Bryson also offers some creativity from a more attacking midfield position.