Sheffield Wednesday host Cardiff City in the Championship’s Saturday teatime kick-off with both sides needing a win for very different reasons.
Jos Luhukay had a successful first evening in the Hillsborough hotseat on Tuesday, overseeing a 2-0 FA Cup replay win over Carlisle, but his league assignments don’t get any easier as the Owls look to climb further away from the relegation zone
The Dutchman’s first game was the Steel City Derby – which ended 0-0 at Bramall Lane – and now his injury-stricken squad face promotion-contenders Cardiff, who are fresh from a 4-0 thrashing of Sunderland.
That victory should have boosted confidence for the Bluebirds, who are narrow 6/4 (2.50) favourites with bet365 to secure successive wins, which would be the perfect response to the preceding run of four straight defeats.
The Owls, who have picked up 12 points from nine against top eight opposition are 7/4 (2.75) outsiders for a first Championship victory since Boxing Day, which was also the last time they found the net in this competition.
A draw, which has occurred in three of the last five meetings between these sides including September’s 1-1 tie in South Wales, is 23/10 (3.30) .
Glenn Loovens completes a two-game ban after his red card in the derby and joins a lengthy list of Wednesday absentees, including fellow centre-back Tom Lees who is one of a number of players out with a long-term injury, so Daniel Pudil could be an auxiliary partner for Federico Venancio.
Cardiff also have their fare share of fitness issues as Lee Peltier, Matthew Connolly, Aron Gunnarsson and Danny Ward remain out, however midfielder Marko Grujic - who has arrived on loan from Liverpool - will add some creativity whilst Norwich loanee Yanic Wildschut is also pushing for his first start.
Cardiff clean sheet
It may not be a great coincidence that Neil Warnock’s side have conceded one goal in three games in all forms since centre-back Sean Morrison has returned to the side to partner Sol Bamba, who is 9/1 (10.0) to get his fourth goal of the campaign.
The duo, ably flanked by Bruno Manga and Jazz Richards, will be confident of a 12th shutout of the league campaign against the division’s joint-seventh lowest scorers.
Ralls to strike?
The hosts don’t have a fit player who has scored more than four league goals this season, but Marco Matias might have caught the manager’s eye with his midweek goal and performance; the Portuguese forward is 3/1 (4.0) to score at any point.
Joe Ralls consistently broke into goalscoring areas in Cardiff’s victory over the Black Cats and the energetic midfielder is 10/3 (4.33) to bag anytime, while Callum Paterson is 9/2 (5.5) to build on the brace he scored in that match.
Tips and predictions
Cardiff City look good for a win to nil as only two teams have won without conceding more often than them, and just seven have lost more with no reply than Sheffield Wednesday.
The Bluebirds, though, are yet to win away in the league by a greater margin than two goals and their four-goal haul against Sunderland was catalyzed by a red card.
Equally, the hosts are yet to concede under Luhukay and have only shipped 34 goals in 27 matches this season, therefore it seems prudent to opt for a Cardiff win with under 2.5 goals at 4/1 (5.0) .
Odds correct at the time of writing. Please gamble responsibly.