Rock-bottom Nottingham Forest welcome Cardiff to the City Ground on Sunday and Mark O'Haire expects another tough afternoon for Chris Hughton's men...
"Tricky Trees rank 22nd for xP, and sit inside the bottom-four for shots, on-target efforts, attempts inside the box, xG, xG from open play, and touches in the box"
Hughton under-fire at Forest
Nottingham Forest came from behind to claim their first point of the season, with Brennan Johnson rescuing a 1-1 draw against bitter rivals Derby in the East Midlands derby before the international break. The stalemate relieved some of the pressure on under-fire Tricky Trees boss Chris Hughton, who faced the axe if the Reds were to be beaten at Pride Park.
Hughton insisted he would remain positive amid speculation over his Forest future after four straight league defeats but would have been fearing the worst after overseeing a desperately poor first half. The Tricky Trees came under sustained pressure after falling behind - and offered little by way of attacking threat.
The Reds responded well after the break, but struggled to convert plentiful possession into goal attempts with a share of the spoils arguably the fairest outcome. And Hughton has since been backed in the transfer market with a total of 10 new signings arriving in the summer - Djed Spence and Mohamed Drager are pushing for debuts on Sunday.
Cardiff fall to first defeat
Cardiff fell to their first Championship defeat of the season before the international break, going down 2-1 at home to Bristol City. Andreas Weimann gave the Robins the lead as he took advantage of some hesitant Bluebirds defending - Mick McCarthy's men levelled on the hour mark, only to concede the decisive second from a superb Weimann volley.
The result was just about merited after a strong second half display from the visitors who responded well to Cardiff's slightly fortuitous equaliser to end the Bluebirds' 11 game unbeaten streak in the league. And McCarthy had no complaints with his side's application, saying: "My team gave me absolutely everything but we lacked a bit of quality."
Star striker Kieffer Moore was subject of much transfer speculation but has remained in the capital and is available for Sunday despite pulling out of the Wales squad due to COVID concerns. However, Lee Tomlin and Isaac Vassell are both deemed major doubts for the weekend with McCarthy only expected to make minor changes to his squad.
Curiously, the away team has proven victorious in eight of the last 11 head-to-head's between Nottingham Forest and Cardiff in Championship action, including each of the duos past four meetings. In fact, the Tricky Trees have been turned over at the City Ground in seven of their most recent eight encounters against the Bluebirds dating back to 2011.
Nottingham Forest 2.982/1 have tabled only two league triumphs in 19 including the back end of 2020/21. The Reds' poor performance data across their opening five fixtures is also of concern; the Tricky Trees rank 22nd for xP, and sit inside the bottom-four for shots, on-target efforts, attempts inside the box, xG, xG from open play, and touches in the box.
Cardiff 2.707/4 have claimed a very respectable W12-D11-L4 during their 27-game spell under Mick McCarthy's tutorship. The capital club have been turned over just once in 14 away days (W7-D6-L1) and the Bluebirds are residing inside the top-six for the majority of metrics through five rounds of action this term, including xP and xG.
Matches between Nottingham Forest and Cardiff have rarely been thrilling affairs - eight of the previous 10 match-ups across all competitions have concluded with Under 2.5 Goals 1.608/13 and five of the most recent six paid out for Under 1.5 Goals 2.8815/8 backers.
With Chris Hughton and Mick McCarthy in charge of their respective clubs, it's hard to imagine Sunday's showdown producing a goal-heavy clash, even though the duo have combined to see exactly half of their collective 10 games this term beating the Over 2.5 Goals 2.255/4 barrier.
With that in mind, I'm happy to take the 1.991/1 available on Cardiff Double Chance and Under 2.5 Goals. The guests have displayed a strong penchant for picking up points on their travels and Forest's lack of final-third threat could play into Cardiff's hands here.
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