Relegation-haunted Sheffield Wednesday welcome play-off chasing Cardiff to Hillsborough on Easter Monday. Mark O'Haire shares his best bet...
"Cardiff have picked up 29 points since Mick McCarthy arrived, moving the Bluebirds into play-off contention (W8-D5-L2)"
Sheffield Wednesday v Cardiff
Monday April 5, 17:30
Wednesday suffer damaging defeat
Sheffield Wednesday remain six points from the Championship safety zone with only eight matches to play after suffering a 1-0 loss at promotion-hopefuls Watford on Good Friday. The Owls, without Darren Moore in the dugout following a positive COVID test, were led by Jamie Smith at Vicarage Road but did produce a spirited performance despite defeat.
The hosts took an early lead when Tom Lees slid Ismaila Sarr's low cross into his own goal. However, Jordan Rhodes had a great chance to level for the Owls when a deep ball fell to him at the back post but he could not keep his effort down. That was the closest Wednesday came to a vital leveller although they did largely restrict a lively Watford outfit.
Moore, who will be absent again from the touchline on Monday, will have been pleased by skipper Barry Bannan's influence in a more advanced role with Sam Hutchinson and Joey Pelupessy marshalling in behind. But the home side's options remain limited with Moses Odubajo, Cameron Dawson and Massimo Luongo unlikely to play again this season.
Cardiff fall short against Forest
Mick McCarthy believes his Cardiff side looked "fragmented" after the international break and it led to a costly first-half performance against Nottingham Forest. The Bluebirds fell behind to a James Garner goal just before the half-hour mark as the visitors took the initiative in the Welsh capital. But the capital club came out swinging in the second period.
Unfortunately for Cardiff, the hosts were unable to create too many clear-cut chances and eventually succumbed to a damaging 1-0 defeat. Kieffer Moore's effort from close-range was as close as the Bluebirds came to finding an equaliser and dropped four points off the top-six as we enter the final furlong of the relentless Championship campaign.
McCarthy said, "It was the classic game of two halves, they were better than us in the first half and managed to get the goal and probably deserved it. We didn't get going, but we had a great reaction in the second half and we were the best side but couldn't manage to get the goal. We didn't create enough. We had opportunities to create and we failed."
Sheffield Wednesday are looking for their first league double over Cardiff since the 1983/84 season under Howard Wilkinson. The Owls were 2-0 winners in the reverse meeting back in September, although Cardiff triumphed here 2-1 last season and are chasing consecutive away league victories at Hillsborough for the first time since March 1976.
Sheff Wed 3.309/4 are winless in their last four Hillsborough outings (W0-LD1-L3), a run of results that's arrived straight off a five-game winning streak on home soil. Overall this term, the Owls have W5-D7-L13 when taking on teams outside the bottom-eight, whilst only rock-bottom Wycombe (13) have scored fewer goals as hosts than Wednesday's tally of 15.
Cardiff 2.3411/8 have picked up 29 points since Mick McCarthy arrived, moving the Bluebirds into play-off contention (W8-D5-L2). Forward momentum may have stalled in recent weeks with the Bluebirds boasting W2-D3-L2 over their past seven fixtures; even so, only table-toppers Norwich boast a better away points return this season than Cardiff (W9-D6-L4).
Goals have rarely been regular when Sheffield Wednesday have been involved. The Owls have fired blanks in 42% of their league fixtures this term with matches at Hillsborough proving particularly stingy. The hosts' 18 home outings have produced just 1.61 goals per-game on average, as 13/18 (72%) have paid out for Under 2.5 Goals 1.608/13 backers.
After an early flourish of goal-filled games under Mick McCarthy's tutorship, Cardiff's contests have started to trend towards lower-scoring encounters. Indeed, four of the Bluebirds most recent five fixtures have featured a maximum of one goal, and six of the last eight outings in the Championship have also paid out for Under 2.5 Goals supporters.
With that in mind, it may pay to partner Cardiff Double Chance alongside Under 2.5 Goals in the Same Game Multi for an appealing 1.9520/21 shot. It's proven a profitable formula in 11/19 (58%) of the Bluebirds' road trips, including seven of 10 trips to the bottom-half.
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