Cardiff v Sheffield Wednesday
Saturday 20th December 15.00
Cardiff go into Saturday’s clash with Wednesday at Ninian park having taken 4 points from two difficult away games so they should be in great heart. The visitors will be disappointed not to have defeated Bristol City at home last weekend but they themselves have gained a win and a draw from their last two matches on the road, albeit against easier opposition than the bluebirds.
Cardiff have been nothing short of excellent at home this season with only Birmingham and Wolves taken all three points back home with them. The hosts have brushed aside Crystal Palace and Preston recently and can count themselves unlucky to only have drawn with Reading who scored snatched a late point.
Sheffield Wednesday, despite their last two away matches, have found it tough going away from fortress Hillsborough. They have only managed two wins from their 11 road games and a total of 11 points from a possible 33.
Cardiff will hope on-loan hitman, Michael Chopra, will pass a late fitness test to take his place alongside Jay Bothroyd, who miraculously recovered from injury last weekend to put Ipswich to the sword. Top scorer Ross McCormack misses out again but they haven’t missed him thus far. Sheffield Wednesday will be without 4 regulars and possibly a further two in the shape of veteran Steve Watson and wide-man, Wade Small.
The home side face a difficult next match away to Reading so will be doubly determined to get the festive run of games off to a winning start tomorrow. With the play-offs as tight as they are they know their home form is crucial to any sort of challenge and will go out tomorrow expecting nothing less than all 3 points.
It will be a tough, competitive match, but with Joe Ledley and Stephen McPhail providing that wee bit extra quality, the home side should just edge it.
My selection: Cardiff to beat Sheffield Wednesday
The best price available for a Cardiff victory is 5/6 available at www.online-betting.me.uk/links/Betfred
Inverness C. Thistle v Aberdeen
Scottish Premier League
Saturday 20th December 15.00
Anyone going to tomorrow’s match does so with my best wishes, having been through in Inverness for work this week, take it from me, it is absolutely freezing.
Speaking to followers of Caley, it is apparent that all is not well at the highland club. Having lost 4 of their last 5 matches and the last 3, the home side go into the match tomorrow desperate to stop to rot against the closest club to them in the SPL, geographically. The fans seem to place most of the blame on manager Craig Brewster and if you believe the local press, it would seem he is in big danger of being sacked if he cannot improve his side’s fortunes rather quickly
Aberdeen have won their last 4 games at home but have not managed to pick up three points on the road since mid-October. Since then, however, they have played 4 of the top 6 on their travels, picking up a point at both Edinburgh clubs but succumbing to Rangers and Dundee United. The only other side they have lost to away this term was Celtic in September, so their form has not been as bad as it seems.
Aberdeen’s star player returns to bolster their squad tomorrow afternoon. Sone Aluko has been one of the most exciting talents in the SPL this season and deservedly won November’s young player of the month last week. He will almost certainly start tomorrow and will hope to be joined by fellow winger, Jamie Smith who faces a late fitness test. With Scottish internationalist Lee Miller bagging two goals last week, the ICT defence could be in for a tough time.
The home side welcome back Ross Tokely who will hope to keep Aluko quiet and will have for his side to stand any chance of getting a result.
The home fans will be looking for their team to go at the visitors tomorrow from the first whistle. If this is the way Brewster goes about things, it could play straight into the visitors’ hands who have pace to burn going forward with the aforementioned Smith and Aluko as well as striker Darren Mackie.
The away side will also be buoyed by the fact they’ve never lost a match at the Caley stadium and have won 5 of the 7 matches they two have played in Inverness. They have sold out their allocation and their fans come through in expectant mood.
I fear the end is nigh for Brew and he could be undone by one of his former clubs on Saturday.
My selection: Aberdeen to beat Inverness Caley Thistle
The best price available for an Aberdeen win is 8/5 available at www.online-betting.me.uk/links/boylesports
Blackburn v Stoke City
Saturday 20th December 15.00
New Blackburn boss Sam Allardyce could hardly have picked a better match for his first in charge. His new troops are up against a side yet to taste victory away from home in the Premiership this season. Stoke have only picked up 3 points from 24 on their travels and they will have to contend with the new manager syndrome which has haunted so many teams in the past.
With the exception of David Bentley, it is basically the same squad available to Allardyce that finished in 7th place for Mark Hughes last season. The likes of Santa Cruz, Pedersen, Warnock and Dunn are all exceptionally talented individuals just begging to be given a new lease of life and an injection of confidence.
Allardyce is a past master at man management and he will need every bit of his talent to guide Rovers to safety this term. He will be extremely determined to show that he was unfairly treated during his time at Newcastle and will want to get off to the best possible start with a victory tomorrow. Let’s face it, if he’s going to keep them in the league, they have to be able to beat sides like Stoke at home.
The visitors were probably dreading a quick appointment by the Blackburn board but will go into the match after snatching a terrific late draw at St James’ Park two weeks ago after being 2-0 down. They will have to go in search of their first win without key players in the shape of Sidibe and Lawrence.
Blackburn have far more quality than Stoke all over the park. They have been a top 10 EPL side for several sides and players do not turn bad overnight. They will go at the visitors from the word go tomorrow and the crowd will back their new manager from the off.
My selection: Blackburn to beat Stoke City
The best odds available for a Blackburn win are 17/20 available at www.online-betting.me.uk/links/bluesquare