Championship Preview: Cardiff looking to take huge step towards Premier League at Watford

Malky Mackay's side will need to pick up just four points from their remaining six games to seal promotion if they can overcome the Hornets at Vicarage Road on Saturday
Cardiff have led the Championship since December 2 and, despite looking like they could have thrown it away, as has become customary, they could all but secure their top-flight place for next season away to Watford on Saturday.

A win against the third-placed Hornets would leave Malky Mackay's side 11 points clear of the Hertfordshire outfit, who would have just five games remaining to overhaul them.

Following three consecutive campaigns that ended in play-off heartache, the Scot believes a stronger squad this season has contributed to the Bluebirds' good form ahead of the trip to Vicarage Road, where he has previously played and managed in his career.


Crystal Palace
Hull City
Nottm Forest
Sheff Wed
Bristol City


He told reporters: "It's what a squad's all about, it's about the squad we've got this year in terms of there being more quality to the squad rather than some of the youngsters who were having to come off the bench last year.

"I've got a squad here that are fighting for the jersey and fighting to get on the bench even - there's a couple that aren't even getting on the bench at the moment.

"So it's about making sure that everyone is hungry and everyone realises that when they do get the chance they've got to keep it.

"They've been exceptional all season in terms of their 'togetherness', playing for each other and guys who have been on the bench and had to wait and eventually been given their chance.

"It's easy to say [winning at Watford], it's not quite as easy to do. They've been doing very well this season... they're a great club and there's some fantastic people that work there that I know very well.

"So it'll be great to go back there on Saturday night... it's one that we'll be really looking forward to."

Gianfranco Zola's side picked up a huge 1-0 win over second-placed Hull City on Tuesday, leaving them a point behind the Tigers in the fight to go up with Cardiff and the Italian believes his side made up for "silly mistakes" earlier in the season with the KC Stadium victory.

Zola told BBC Three Counties Radio: "All of them realised we've lost points through silly mistakes. We wanted to make up for that and did it in style.

"Every time we've played an important game these players have never disappointed me or the supporters.

"Normally we are a side that wants to score goals, we know every now and then we will give some away. But recently we have given away too many and we made up for that."

In the battle for survival, two of the bottom three meet at John Smith's Stadium when Huddersfield host Peterborough.

Deeney was handed a huge show of faith from Watford as he was retained, despite being imprisoned for affray, over the summer and he has repayed the Hornets richly with 16 goals so far, including the winner against Hull City last time out. The central pivot in Gianfranco Zola's fluid attack, he will be eyeing another crucial strike against Cardiff.
The 23-year-old has kept 10 clean sheets in his 40 Championship appearances this season, which is a return not to be sniffed at despite Huddersfield's perilous position. A former England Under-19 international, Smithies will be eyeing another shut-out against relegation rivals Peterborough.
After being linked with a big-money move back to Liverpool in January, the winger's form has tailed off somewhat and he has only managed one goal in his last nine outings. However, an improved performance against Crystal Palace last time out, including his 13th assist of the term, suggests he could be back on form.
The Terriers currently sit 22nd after their defeat to Bolton on Tuesday and boss Mark Robins does not believe that the league standing reflects the efforts of his players.

"The league is absolutely unbelievable, but we know what we have to do now," Robins told BBC Radio Leeds.

"We were five points clear of the bottom three after beating Leeds [on March 16] and then after playing one more game we were in the relegation zone.

"I thought we were brilliant against Bolton and I have got to say I was proud of them. If we perform like that from now until the end of the season then I can't see a problem. We were really unlucky."

The Posh have surged up the table in recent weeks thanks to a seven-game unbeaten run and Darren Ferguson was happy to have picked up an away point at woefully out-of-form Middlesbrough in their last game, despite it having been labelled as a potential win for his team.

Ferguson said: "When not at your best, you have to battle away and we did. That's seven unbeaten now and another point so that's not too bad.

"They are a good team. It looks like their confidence has gone but that doesn't mean they have become a bad team. They played well and caused us problems but we dealt with them well.

"We'll find out at end of the season if that was a good point or not."

The form team in the league, pushing for the top six, Nottingham Forest will take on a club still looking over their shoulder in Blackpool.

The Reds are unbeaten in nine and have been fired into the play-offs by Lewis McGugan, who has netted in each of Forest's last five games. The midfielder's contract expires in the summer, however Billy Davies is in no rush to rush a new deal.

The Scot said: "We will remain focused on the remaining games, then we will sort out the things that need sorting in the future. I don't worry about losing players. They come and go.

"We make our intentions clear to players. When we want them to stay, we will offer them what we can, financially speaking. If they decide to move on to pastures new, I do not lose too much sleep about it. There are far too many players out there to worry about that.

"He knows my feelings, he knows my position and he knows how much he is wanted at this club."

Paul Ince, the Tangerines' third permanent manager of the season, has been linked with a move to Leicester, who are struggling to make the play-offs, but the former England midfielder has brushed off reports suggesting he could move to the King Power Stadium imminently.

"I'd never comment on any club where there's someone working there. Nigel Pearson's a top man and a top manager," Ince told BBC Radio Lancashire.

"As far as I'm concerned, my job's at Blackpool and I'm enjoying it.

"When I came to the club, I said to the chairman that we had a great year in the Premier League, but we've got to start again and we're going through a transitional period where we need to build again.

"One thing I like to do is build teams. I want to do the same here."

The week in headlines
  • Neil Warnock left Leeds this week, describing his time at Elland Road as the hardest of his career. Former Whites boss David O'Leary and Jim Magilton have expressed an interest in taking over, but MK Dons boss Karl Robinson and current caretaker at the club, Neil Redfearn, do not want the job.
  • Blackburn have been forced to deny that managing director Derek Shaw has been told to stay away from the club while an investigation into the hiring of Henning Berg, which Shaw was instrumental in, is undertaken.
  • Wolves' survival tilt has been dealt a blow as Sylvan Ebanks-Blake has been ruled out for the rest of the campaign with a broken leg.
  • Crystal Palace will have striker Aruna Dindane available for their run-in after the Ivorian was only granted a work-permit this week, despite signing a fortnight ago.
  • Further bad news for Blackburn has seen experienced goalkeeper Paul Robinson confined to the sidelines for six months as he recovers from a procedure to remove a blood clot from his lung.

Follow Matt Scott on