Date:Thursday May 12 2011
Cardiff City striker Michael Chopra made a speedy recovery from injury, returning to action only 5 weeks after suffering a hamstring tear it was feared would keep him out for the season. He limped off during the 2-2 draw with Barnsley, but has appeared 3 times as a substitute since returning to full training.
Whilst a very useful option on the bench, there is a strong case for Chopra to return to the starting line-up to face Reading in the two semi-finals, and hopefully either Swansea City or Nottm Forest in the Championship play-off final. Put simply, Chopra is the only natural finisher in the Bluebirds squad.
Bothroyd, Whittingham, JET and Burke are all potent attacking options, but do not have the ability of Chopra to appear in exactly the right place and capitalise on the majority of the chances that fall his way. Bellamy too, whilst a short and pacy striker, is completely different to Chops in style and for all his quality, finishing is not Bellamy`s strongest asset.
Undoubtedly, Chopra is also a big match player and loves the attention and pressure of the most important games. His winner at CCS against Swansea was a typical poachers finish while he netted early in the home play-off SF against Leicester before going on to produce a man-of-the-match performance against Blackpool in the final. He and Charlie Adam stood out, and Chopra`s quality and work-rate did not deserve to be on the losing side. His goal that day was very well taken, and he caused serious problems for the 'Pool defence, even without decent service after the withdrawal of key man Bothroyd - hitting the post and bar.
The problem is fitting the lively frontman into the side. In Chopra`s absence, Craig Bellamy has occupied a more advanced role and done well. His goal against Burnley was well taken and he has been in particularly good form towards the end of the season. A switch to left wing is an option for Dave Jones, but he will appreciate our best winning streak came with Bellamy alongside Bothroyd in attack.
Anyone who has followed Chopra`s Cardiff City career will know that he scored his goals in batches. Hot scoring streaks are followed by barren spells when things don`t go his way - though his work-rate remains exemplary. He began the season scoring 5 goals in 11 appearances before going 7 games without another. Another good spell came in the New Year with an impressive 6 strikes in 11 games. Chopra has now failed to find the net in the previous 6 outings (though mostly from the bench) - with 2 or potentially 3 games of the season remaining, now would be the very best of times to re-create his 2 in 3 play-off form of last season - if he gets the chance.AC
Date:Thursday May 12 2011
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