Cardiff v Newcastle
Friday, 28th April, 19:45
Live on Sky Sports 1
Cardiff manager Neil Warnock stressed the importance of injecting creativity and guile into a lacklustre midfield this summer after watching his side play out a dull 0-0 draw with relegation-haunted Wigan last weekend.
The Bluebirds showed little attacking ambition without Kenneth Zohore up top but frustrated the Latics with another solid defensive display underpinned by Bruno Manga and Sean Morrison at centre-half and Aron Gunnarsson and Joe Ralls dominating the midfield battle.
Rookies Mark Harris and Ibrahim Meite were handed debuts in that stalemate but might be replaced here with Warnock suggesting his side were ready to put on a show in Cardiff's final home league game of 2016/17 having previously downed tools for the summer early.
Goalkeepers Allan McGregor and Brian Murphy were both ruled out and so Ben Amos is again on standby whilstPeter Whittingham could be in line for a final Bluebirds appearance in front of the Cardiff City Stadium supporters having failed to agree a new deal following 10 years of service.
Newcastle - the shortest ante-post Championship favourites in history - shrugged off their recent toils to secure animmediate return to the Premier League on Monday evening, beating Preston 4-1.
However, the Toon's third victory in nine (W3-D3-L3) and party celebrations were cut short on Thursday following HMRC raids at St James's Park with the club now under investigation for tax fraud.
Magpies boss Rafa Benitez was aloof when discussing his future in pre-match dealings with the press but did reveal he'd be without six members of his squad for Friday night's encounter.
Jamaal Lascelles, Matt Ritchie, Grant Hanley, Vurnon Anita, Jesus Gamez and Dwight Gayle are all unavailable leaving the Spaniard with Ciaran Clark and Chancel Mbemba as his only recognised senior centre-backs ahead of the trip to Wales.
Newcastle 2.14 can break a club record with three points with 14 away wins the most of any side in a single season during the club's history. And the Toon will be happy to here they've conquered Cardiff in each of their last nine meetings.
The Magpies need a win in the Welsh capital to keep the title race alive, although if table-topping Brighton defeat Bristol City on Saturday, United's result here will be rendered meaningless. Nevertheless, the pressure should be off for a Newcastle side without a win in four away days.
Cardiff can be backed at 3.60, a generous quote considering the Bluebirds have turned Cardiff City Stadium into a fortress under Warnock (W10-D4-L3). The hosts have W7-D2-L1 in their last 10 here and beaten Huddersfield, Aston Villa, Preston and Brentford, making the 1.87 available in the Double Chance market a bet.
Over/Under 2.5 Goals
Over 2.5 Goals has been chalked up at 1.75 for Friday night's duel and with Newcastle surpassing that line in nine of their past 14 outings, goals backers will be encouraged to support another high-scoring contest.
The visitors have recorded just three clean sheets in 12 and with major selection problems at the back, Cardiff will reasonably expect to get on the scoresheet here having fired blanks in only five of their last 25 and only once here since December.
However, the two teams have collected delivered only 19/44 (43%) winners in this market when viewing home/away games and despite the end-of-season feel to the fixture, the value is actually to be found in Under 2.5 Goals at 2.16.
Back Home or Draw double chance @ 1.87
Back Under 2.5 Goals 2.16
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