The Bluebirds are back in the top league since they went down as 20th in the 2013/14 season. After some years in the Championship midtable, they return with a second place finish, just behind league-walking Wolves. To Newcastle fans, they might be known for developing legends like Sammy Ameobi and Haris Vuckic, as both had loan spells there in the past.

Opposition At A Glance

Cardiff Manager

Their manager is Neil Warnock, a proper Championship manager. He set the tactics quite well for them in the Championship, and it was a slight surprise he brought them back up, with this he broke the record of promotion in the football leagues, Cardiff being his eighth. He usually lines his teams up in a 4-2-3-1 or a 4-4-1-1, depending on how one would interpret the lineups.

Current Squad

Cardiff’s squad is by no doubts the cheapest one in the league, with this season’s additions being just Championship players like Josh Murphy, Bobby Reid, Greg Cunningham and Alex Smithies. On paper, this team is a very average Championship squad, but Warnock introduced a great togetherness and team spirit into the squad to make the players have a great fight in the Championship, and it might even work out to have them fight to stay in the Premier League.

Cardiff’s transfers

From their new players, I expect almost all to start at some point during this season. Their most expensive signing has been Josh Murphy, who most football fans see as the better twin. He adds pace on their left side, and I think Warnock sees him as a backup to Hoilett. Or start him over Mendez-Laing, who Murphy replaced after 60 minutes in their last game.

Without a doubt, their newly signed star is Bobby Reid, who joined them from Bristol for about £10m. He plays AM behind the striker in a 4-2-3-1 or alongside Paterson in the 4-1-4-1, an offensive tactic I doubt we will often see in the premier league. We might see one of their loaned centre-midfielders more often, as they brought in Harry Arter from Bournemouth and Víctor Vamarasa from Real Betis. At least for the first, I’d say they were brought in to set up more defensively. They also signed a new left-back in Greg Cunningham from Preston and a keeper from QPR, namely Alex Smithies.

Predicted lineups for our fixture

Last Match Against Bournemouth

Cardiff set up in a 4-1-4-1, with Reid as a false nine up front. Behind him as a more attacking midfield were Paterson and Ralls. Mendez-Laing and Hoilett played on the wing. Bamba played as a DM/CM, mainly as a protector of the backline of four and Etheridge started as their keeper.

Cardiff had just a small part of the possession, registering only a 37% share. But, even with being under pressure a lot, they kept an excellent disciplinary game: only nine fouls were committed, with the majority coming from Bamba.

The Bluebirds strength in this game were aerial duels. Their wingers often take a similar approach as Newcastle’s – the heat map indicated they preferred operating down the right flank. Also, when Murphy came on for Mendez-Laing, Hoilett was shifted more to the right side.

Looking at the style of play we saw a direct approach with a lot of long balls, and attacks usually played down in the middle. Their best player was Reid, but the left-back Bennett had an excellent game too. Think the 2-0 result is a good representation of the game. Cardiff had problems going forward: with only four shots (one of them on target) and the small share of possession, they will struggle in the premier league, especially with their lack of talent.

Cardiff: Last match line-up

Cardiff: Preview for the fixture

Warnock played ten times against Newcastle, winning one and losing seven. He never beat Rafael Benítez in the five games they already played against each other. The meetings in the Championship two years ago ended 2-1 and 2-0. On paper, Newcastle should not have a problem in beating them – but on paper Cardiff should also not be in the Premier League. It will still be a tough game for the Magpies.

Squad Preview

I don’t see them setting up in a much different way than they did against Bournemouth. They might bring back Zohore, as he was out of the squad in their last game due to injury. Warnock said “I hope so, but I thought he’d be fit for today.” after their match. If he comes back, this will shift their lineup more into a 4-4-1-1, with Reid behind Zohore. This will most likely result in a restructured midfield for them. With one of Bamba, Paterson, Ralls begin benched, or Bamba being moved back to a centre-back position, where he usually plays over Manga.

Tactics Preview

I expect Cardiff to sit back and let Newcastle do their work. Even if they are at home, I can’t see them trying to go forward too much. With their wingers, I think they will target Newcastle’s right flank more often, as this is defensively a storied vulnerability. For neutrals, I expect a boring game from Cardiff without many surprises.

Newcastle: Preview for the fixture

While dropping all points against Tottenham at home, there was a widespread feeling that the scoreline didn’t reflect the game – Newcastle played well in all phases (though there was typical Week 1 mistakes). The Newcastle backline will feel confident handling the Cardiff strikeforce, as Lascelles kept Harry Kane under wraps. Cardiff allowed Callum Wilson to have his way, allowing him to fire off 6 shots (one of which resulted in a goal). Whichever striker starts on Saturday could have scoring chances to look forward to.

Squad Preview

As Yedlin got injured during the Tottenham match, Manquillo will start over him. As Rafa mentioned, Joselu might have hit a high with a good game against Spurs. He could remain in the lineup for another start. Who would doubt it, a goal and a class ball to bring Kenedy into play. I think other players from the starting lineup had a good game and I can’t see any changes besides out of rotation reasons, Muto could play for Pérez, but that seems quite unlikely to me.

Tactics Preview

Rafa is very astute in terms of detailing a game plan according to the opposition’s strength. In playing a slightly weaker opponent on their territory, a similar approach could be used for when NUFC travelled to Bournemouth on 24th of Feb 2018.

In attack, while possession may be nearly equal between the sides, look for Newcastle counter-attacks to feature more players allowed to move forward. In defence, as Newcastle’s 4-4-2 shape has been predominant, the variance is found in how aggressive Newcastle will press as opposition crosses the midline – at Cardiff, the aggression will probably be conservative.