Cardiff v West Brom: Baggies to consolidate top spot
Promotion-chasing West Brom face a tricky trip to Wales on Tuesday night as the Baggies bid to consolidate their position at the top of the Championship table...
Cardiff v West Brom Tuesday January 28, 19:45 Sky Sports
Cardiff off-target in the cup
Cardiff boss Neil Harris felt his side "deserved to win" after being held to a 1-1 draw at Reading in Saturday's FA Cup 4th Round showdown. The Bluebirds made seven changes to their side for the Madjeski Stadium clash but were made to rue a number of missed chances, including defender Sol Bamba inexplicably firing off-target at an open goal from close range.
The opening exchanges in Berkshire were fast and frenetic as both sides traded goals inside the first seven minute. The Welsh side led early on when Callum Paterson slammed home from close range after Aden Flint headed on Josh Murphy's teasing cross. However, the away side's advantage was short-lived as Reading were level inside 180 seconds.
The tempo slowed thereafter and the second period never matched the first in terms of the intensity. Nevertheless, Harris felt his team created enough to clinch progression with Robert Glatzel hitting the side-netting from a narrow angle after rounding the keeper, before Bamba missed an open goal from just a yard out when it was easier to score.
West Brom impress at West Ham
Slaven Bilic enjoyed a winning return to the London Stadium on Saturday as West Brom took advantage of a dismal performance by West Ham to progress to the 5th Round of the FA Cup with a deserved 1-0 victory. The Croat had made it clear before the game that promotion is his priority this season - but his side impressed in the capital despite making eight changes.
Conor Townsend's rasping early strike proved enough to send the Baggies through, although the Championship leaders had enough chances to win by a much bigger margin with Charlie Austin twice going close, plus Filip Krovinovic and Kyle Edwards testing the hosts. West Ham offered little in response, even after Albion had Semi Ajayi sent off with 18 minutes to play.
Bilic's boys didn't concede their first shot on-target until the 90th minute, giving away only one real goalscoring opportunity, which Mark Noble spurned late on. And the West Brom boss was full of praise for his players post-match, hailing a "complete" performance, saying "We big-time deserved it. It was a great performance by us - a complete one."
Bluebirds toil against leading lights
Cardiff won the duos last league encounter here 1-0 back in December 2013 when the two teams were Premier League clubs. The Bluebirds will be hoping for something similar on Tuesday night as the hosts bid to avoid a double dose of defeats against West Brom in the same campaign for the first time since 1974/75.
Cardiff3.20 have only been beaten once in the Welsh capital this season in Championship action (W7-D4-L1), the fewest home defeats recorded in the second-tier this term. Despite that apparent positive return, the Bluebirds are winless when entertaining the top-half in the capital (W0-D5-L1) and have registered a solitary success as hosts since the start of December.
West Brom2.48 have earned only four league points from six league outings since before Christmas and the Baggies' off-colour efforts extend to early December with Albion pocketing a sole success in eight Championship contests (W1-D5-L2). However, the visitors remain the best road team in the division, suffering a solitary loss at Leeds (W8-D5-L1).
Oppose goals in the capital
The past seven meetings between Cardiff and West Brom in Wales have delivered Under 2.5 Goals1.86, a complete contrast to the regular high-scoring showdowns played out when the two teams cross swords in the Black Country.
Goals have often proven in short supply in Cardiff this season. A healthy 8/13 (62%) of league fixtures here have featured fewer than three goals, including all six when top-half teams have visited. It's a trend that's matched by West Brom's away days with the Baggies taking a more conservative approach to matches outside of their Hawthorns home.
Only two teams have seen fewer goals per-game on their travels than WBA (2.21) and the visitors have seen Under 2.5 Goals pay-out in 10/14 (71%) games as guests. With that in mind, I'm happy to take the Baggies in the Double Chance market alongside Under 3.5 Goals at 1.85, a selection that's returned profit in 11 (79%) of Albion's 14 road trips.