Just goal difference separates the Championship’s form team, Cardiff City, and Middlesbrough ahead of their meeting in Wales this weekend.
Both teams come into the match in the knowledge that victory could see either move into an automatic promotion spot should West Ham slip up against Barnsley this weekend.
Malky Mackay’s Bluebirds have strung together an impressive run of results in recent weeks and they are now unbeaten in their last nine league fixtures, picking up six wins and three draws along the way.
It’s this form that prompted Mackay to be named Manager of the Month for November and City head into this fixture as 11/10 favourites, having turned the Cardiff City Stadium into something of a fortress this season.
Mackay’s side have tasted defeat just once at home so far this campaign, back in August, and have picked up maximum points from their last five games in South Wales, making a 3-0 reverse dished out to them by Boro back in May appear unlikely.
Boro were comfortably beaten by both West Ham and Southampton [and] on both occasions failed to find the back of the net, so a Cardiff win to nil at 5/2 might be worth considering.
Having found the net in all but two of their league fixtures, City haven’t been shy in front of goal – with Peter Whittingham contributing seven goals from midfield – but they also head into this match on the back of three successive clean sheets.
Tony Mowbray’s side, however, are certainly no pushovers, as demonstrated by their lofty league position, and they will head into this fixture brimming with confidence following two victories and two clean sheets on the bounce.
The Teesside club have been defeated in just three of their league games this season and recorded six victories away from the Riverside. An away win this time round can be backed at 12/5, with a share of the spoils priced at 9/4.
If they are to leave with anything, they’ll need to be on top of their game, which wasn’t the case against the other two sides that currently occupy places above them, having been comfortably beaten by both West Ham and Southampton.
On both occasions Boro failed to find the back of the net, so a Cardiff win to nil at 5/2 might be worth considering, while a multiple 1-0, 2-0 or 3-0 win to the home side looks very appealing at 27/10.
With both sides having started the season in impressive form, it looks set to be a close encounter at the Cardiff City Stadium, but one that the Bluebirds should have enough quality to edge to open up a three-point gap on their opponents.
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