Tuesday night’s 3-1 comeback victory at Brentford ensured Cardiff City will head into the final nine games of the Championship season with a seven-point gap over the play-off spots.
Having won seven on the trot now, it’s hard to see past promotion for Cardiff at 2/7. And the recent signs suggest that if they do secure top-flight football, they’re ready for the rigours of the Premier League…
The Warnock factor
Whether you love him or loathe him, Neil Warnock’s track record speaks for itself. The 69-year-old has won promotion to the top-tier with both Notts County (the second of two successive promotions), Queens Park Rangers and Sheffield United.
But it’s his record of survival which could make him most valuable in the next 12 months. In 2016-17, he came in as Rotherham United boss in mid-February. At that point, the Millers seemed destined for the drop.
Before Warnock’s arrival, the seemingly relegation-doomed Millers had been beaten in 19 of their 30 Championship games. Under him, they lost just four of the final 16, winning six.
An outstanding motivator who knows how to set his sides up to be solid, he’s exactly the kind of manager to help a side thrive after making the step-up
Goals and creativity across the pitch
While some of their title-chasing rivals have been highly reliant on one or two players for goals, Cardiff’s 58 league strikes this term have come from across the pitch.
Eight different players have produced four or more league goals for the South Wales club this season.
They certainly have a number of strings to their bow. The four-plus goal crew include wing wizard Junior Hoilett, clinical striker Danny Ward, and set-piece threats Sean Morrison and Sol Bamba.
That all means top-flight defences would likely have their hands full. And if one or two players were to move in the summer, it wouldn’t hamper them too badly.
Rock-solid backline bodes well for Prem
Nobody can match the Cardiff backline this season. Warnock’s defence have conceded just 31 goals in 37 Champ fixtures, chalking up 16 clean sheets along the way.
They’ve had consistency in terms of personnel, too. Bamba and Bruno Ecuele Manga have offered physicality and reliability at centre-back.
Meanwhile, full-back pair Joe Bennett and Lee Peltier are both good creators – with 11 assists between them this term – but that doesn’t mean that either will shirk a crunching tackle!
Add in the intuitive understanding which has developed across the Bluebirds backline, and it’s not hard to imagine them frustrating some of the Prem’s top frontlines come August…
Following their recent good run, Warnock’s men are now just three points below table-toppers Wolverhampton Wanderers. It’s 5/1 for Cardiff to lift the title, and they could make another big step towards that quest at Derby County on Sunday.
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