Action Images via Reuters/Carl Recine
15:00 BST, Saturday 25th August, John Smith’s Stadium
Two games played, two defeats inflicted. Huddersfield may have made a strong start last season, but 2018/19 is proving exactly the opposite. With nine goals conceded and only two shots fired on target, the Terriers can at least take solace in the fact they have two of their hardest games out of the way.
David Wagner will be looking to start his side’s season in earnest with a more winnable fixture ahead of them this weekend. A third consecutive defeat, however, would be a truly sobering thought for the Terriers.
Neil Warnock already knows his team are in for a scrap as he too goes in search of his first win of the new season. The Bluebirds are the only Premier League side yet to score, but have shown more defensive solidity than many other teams expected to inhabit the bottom half of the table.
Cardiff, though, head into this clash with a superior record over Huddersfield in recent years. Undefeated in their last nine meetings (W7 D2) and looking for a fifth successive victory after this match, yet history will count for little for a club looking to make a brighter future, especially considering their last meeting was back in 1956.
Last Time Out
Manchester City 6-1 Huddersfield Town
The Terriers were torn apart by a rampant Manchester City side who left little doubt as to their superiority. It took 25 minutes for Sergio Aguero to open the scoring on his way towards a hat-trick, after which Huddersfield were left with an exercise in damage limitation.
REUTERS/Darren Staples Jon Gorenc Stankovic added a touch of respectability to the scoreline just before the halftime whistle, but by this point Ben Hamer was culpable of three costly mistakes, all of which were dispatched by City’s strikers.
Despite an own-goal, Terence Kongolo was one player who provided a positive for Wagner to take away from this defeat. Stankovic also slotted into the team well in the midfield anchor role, but both players ultimately found themselves overwhelmed by the waves of attack washing over them.
Cardiff City 0-0 Newcastle United
The Bluebirds won their first Premier League point in over four years in a match which left little else for fans to savour.
Neil Etheridge made an injury-time save to deny Kenedy from the penalty spot and salvage a point, but it was no less than the home side deserved. Although they created few outright chances, they held firm and largely contained Newcastle throughout the match.
REUTERS/Rebecca Naden Ugly challenges and frayed tempers pockmarked the match throughout. Isaac Hayden’s rash 66th minute challenge from behind was the only one of three red card offences actually awarded, with both Kenedy and Harry Arter benefiting from Craig Pawson’s leniency.
Beyond Arter’s horror challenge on Joselu, the midfielder put in an impressively controlled performance in midfield alongside fellow new recruit Victor Camarasa.
With Josh Murphy looking menacing on the left wing and Kenneth Zohore likely to improve with more match fitness, there were encouraging signs for Cardiff, suggesting that points could follow in the near future.
Huddersfield Town Lineup
Mathias Jorgensen (muscular) and Danny Williams (ankle) are once more sidelined, although Jonathan Hogg is expected to be fit again after missing last weekend with a hip injury, while Aaron Mooy is also likely to return to the starting XI.
Jonas Lossl too could well find himself restored to the lineup after Ben Hamer’s two failed opportunities at clutching the gloves away from him.
Cardiff City Lineup
Aron Gunnarsson is Warnock’s only major concern ahead of this weekend as he recovers from the knee injury which saw him miss the end of last season.
Kenneth Zohore could start in attack again ahead of new signing Bobby Reid, with Nathaniel Mendez-Laing and Josh Murphy either side of him.
Key Battle: Aaron Mooy vs Joe Ralls
With Wagner looking to use Mooy in a more advanced role for the Terriers this season, Huddersfield’s most creative player should have more impact on the attacking side of their games.
His four league goals and three assists last season belies the impact he had for the team in attack and this could be the first game of this season in which he can underline his importance with tangible evidence.
REUTERS/Andrew Yates Looking to blunt Huddersfield’s creativity and protect his defence is a player who has worked his way up from Cardiff’s academy. Joe Ralls may not be as high profile as either of the midfielders playing beside him, but the player described as a Rolls Royce by Warnock last season has long been a consistent performer for his team.
Like Mooy, Ralls is equally adept at playing defence-splitting passes as he is at intercepting them. As such, the player who hits the highest standard this weekend could well find themselves on the winning team.
Despite reverting to a back-four against Manchester City last weekend, Wagner is in the process of switching Huddersfield’s style of play. The 5-3-2 formation deployed in their final three fixtures of last season returned for their opening match against Chelsea and is likely to be used again for this weekend’s visit of Cardiff.
This system provides more attacking ability in the team than they had for the majority of last season, especially down the wings which is an area strengthened by three new signings this summer.
Following their two difficult opening games, this will be the first real opportunity for the Terriers to flourish this season and showcase what can be expected from them.
Making the grade
Although the level of competition inside the Championship has ramped up over recent seasons, much is still made of the 'huge jump' in quality teams must make after winning promotion. Many top strikers from the division, for instance, often find it hard to adapt to the new standard expected of them.
Action Images via Reuters/Carl Recine
The four top scorers from the 2016/17 season all played in the Premier League last season, but while Chris Wood and Glenn Murray scored 10 and 12 goals respectively, Tammy Abraham and Dwight Gayle only managed 11 between them.
With Bobby Reid (19 goals last season) and Kenneth Zohore (9) spearheading Cardiff’s attack this year, Warnock will be hoping that at least 50% of his Championship strikers make the grade at a higher level this season.
Prediction: Huddersfield Town 0-1 Cardiff City
With Arsenal, Chelsea and then Manchester City set to follow this game, Cardiff will be looking for an away win to boost their chances this year.
Huddersfield too will want to launch their season after a slow start, but how well they adapt to their new system will dictate how well they fare in this game.
Against Chelsea they looked unsure of their new roles, especially in defence, and Warnock’s basic but well-drilled approach could see his team come away with a surprise victory.
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