What an occasion it promises to be on Tuesday as Cardiff City host Crystal Palace in the Carling Cup semi-final second leg with a history-defining match against the might of either Liverpool or Manchester City awaiting the winners.
Palace take a 1-0 lead to the Cardiff City Stadium after Anthony Gardner’s first-half header proved enough to give the London outfit the advantage in the battle of the Championship sides and the Welsh capital will no doubt be the scene of another engrossing affair as two bright young managers bid to boost their fledging careers with a trip to Wembley.
Both Malky Mackay and Dougie Freedman have done fine jobs so far. Former Watford boss Mackay has overseen a major player overhaul to have Cardiff in third position and pushing for promotion, while Freedman has produced a young, vibrant and well-organised side on a shoestring budget, much to the delight of the long-suffering Palace fans.
However, only one manager will be celebrating on Tuesday night and it is a game that again looks evenly balanced. Cardiff are currently 12 points ahead of their visitors in the Championship table and that fact is accounted for in bwin’s 3Way football betting odds.
Cardiff are the 7/10 favourites to win the match in 90 minutes, with the draw that would see Palace progress priced at 12/5. An away win is quoted as a 17/4 chance, but remember, these are the odds for the 90-minute result only, it does not include extra time or penalties.
I mention extra-time because I have a feeling this is where this tie could be heading. Cardiff are fair enough favourites at 7/10 – as I mentioned, they are well above Palace in the table and will certainly finish above them this season – but odds-on in a domestic cup semi-final, even with home advantage, is not something I’d want to get too heavily involved with, especially as Palace have had some good results on the road this year.
A famous win at Old Trafford in the quarter-finals will live long in the memory, but it proved to be no fluke. Palace have won six away games in the Championship – only three sides have won more – and are a team who can keep it tight: only West Ham have kept more away clean sheets.
It is a good job for the Eagles, too, as Cardiff’s home form is excellent. The Bluebirds have posted a 9-2-2 home record, bettered by only Southampton and Birmingham, and have won five of their last six home league games, scoring 16 in the process.
So I am expecting another hard-fought, tight encounter. Home advantage may just about give Cardiff the edge but at 7/10 I’m not too interested, so instead I’ll look at the 27/20 that the match is won by exactly one goal.
Seven of Cardiff’s 13 wins in the league this season have been by the odd goal, four of which have come at home, while three of their four defeats have been by a solitary strike. Palace’s matches seem to always be tight – seven of their ten wins have been by one goal and seven of their defeats have also been by the same margin.
So there is form for tight matches, and when you add the tension to the occasion, I see another one-goal win in the offing. I do think it will be Cardiff who will get the result and force extra-time (away goals count at the end of this period, remember) and a reverse of the 1-0 result in the first leg is at 19/4.
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