West Brom v Cardiff (Match Preview)
Cardiff City face a daunting trip to the West Midlands to face a West Brom side sitting pretty atop the Championship, and meeting pre-season expectations of automatic promotion. Whilst their rivals Watford and Charlton Athletic have had blips in form, the Baggies have continued to pick up points regualrly despite the odd, unavoidable defeat in this division.
A win last time out (3-1 at Hull City) restored their position after a draw and defeat to Ipswich had slowed their march. Over Christmas they scored 5-0 and 4-1 victories in successive matches, the 4 goals coming against high flying Bristol City.
There are some big names in the Baggies squad, most notbaly Kevin Phillips - top scorer in the division with 16. Also including in a potent attack are highly rated Ishmael Miller, James Morrison and former Cardiff target Craig Beattie. Roman Bednar has been extremely effective from the bench and the Cardiff defence must be on good form to subdue them.
However, Cardiff should hold no fear and travel in excellent form themselves. Unbeaten in five, and with 3 successive victories - the Bluebirds are flying. Then league leaders Watford needed extended injury time and a super strike for a 90+++ minute equaliser after being outplayed on their own patch.
Cardiff have already won at the Hawthorns this season after an inspired performance saw them win 4-2 in the Carling Cup and set up a match with Liverpool.
Hasselbaink really shone last time out, while the settled back four are resilient and dominant. McPhail and Rae have developed a real understanding and the captain has re-discovered his form in recent weeks and looks a different player altogether.
There can be no question that this is a tough game, highly significant for both sides and Cardiff would have to be happy with a point. However, Cardiff have the better form while West Brom's defending can be dodgy. Both sides like to play football so an entertaining encounter and excellent atmosphere is likely - VitalCardiff sees a 1-1 draw as the most likely result. On balance, that would do for Cardiff City.