Every fixture seems to be a “must-win” game these days and this weekend is no different. Cardiff City travel to St Mary’s on Saturday to play a resurgent Southampton side, that is now unbeaten in the Premier League since their 30th December loss to Manchester City.
Whilst Cardiff are in somewhat different form, having won only once since that date, the relatively poor form of their fellow relegation battlers provided a crumb of comfort when the final whistle is blown. No longer is that the case, with teams near the bottom of the Premier League picking up points where they weren’t in the first half of the season. Cardiff can no longer rely on others for their survival.
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There are a number of monumentally massive games this weekend that could see Cardiff leapfrog some of their relegation rivals, or even be cast adrift of the pack once more. All will become slightly clearer on Monday evening after Wolves have beaten Newcastle at Molineux (hopefully).
In the meantime, let’s look at how the Bluebirds stack up against the Saints.
Southampton vs. Cardiff City
Let’s start with the Saints, who are looking to avenge a one-nil defeat at the Cardiff City Stadium, courtesy of Callum Patterson’s winner on the 8th December. It was Ralph Hasenhuttl’s first game in charge of Southampton and saw Cardiff climb to the heady heights of 14th in the league table, while Southampton languished in 19th place with just nine points.
Things have changed since then, as Hassenhuttl has begun to make the most of an undoubtedly talented squad. Cardiff (currently in 18th place with 22 points) will be travelling to St Mary’s looking to reduce a two point deficit on their nearest rivals. Southampton (currently in 16th place with 24 points) will be hoping to move on to 27 points and potentially move five points clear of the relegation zone.
While on one hand, Southampton are in good form having only lost once in six league games, they’ve equally only won twice and drawn three of those matches.
Cardiff have also won two of their last six matches, but have only drawn once and lost three games, admittedly against Tottenham Hotspur, Arsenal and away to Newcastle United.
• Southampton win – move to 27 points – 5 points clear of Cardiff and the relegation zone.
• Cardiff win – move to 25 points – overtake Southampton and potentially Burnley and move to 16th or 17th position, crucially out of the drop zone.
• Draw – Cardiff remain in the relegation zone and at least two points behind their relegation rivals.
A loss for Cardiff would be quite damaging, particularly if Burnley win away at Brighton, and would see the Bluebirds fall some five points behind their nearest rivals.
In contrast, the Bluebirds would place real pressure on the surrounding teams with a win on Saturday. Leaving the relegation zone can be hugely significant in a teams psychology and Neil Warnock will be doing all he can to ensure his team continues to rise above their abject circumstances.