This is a crucial clash for both of these teams for very different reasons. Sunderland are propping up the division again and could really do with a good run of form, otherwise it’s going to be an incredibly nervy end to the season for Black Cats fans. As for Cardiff, they are still right in the hunt for automatic promotion but it’s a case of trying to stop the rot for them after a poor festive period.
Since beating Hull in mid-December they’ve lost 4 straight Championship fixtures and were held at home by Mansfield in the FA Cup last weekend. That will be the least of Neil Warnock’s worries but it was another game that seemed to showcase a sudden lack of confidence which has affected them in recent weeks.
They remain in 3rd place and would go 2nd with maximum points here, so the Bluebirds still have plenty to be positive about but this feels almost like a must win game if they are going to get their automatic promotion bid back on track.
Sunderland’s need for points is greater given the unthinkable prospect of back-to-back relegations. A win would lift them out of the drop-zone temporarily at least but it is 3 defeats out of 4 in all competitions for the Wearsiders heading into this one and the Chris Coleman honeymoon period is certainly over.
With both sides in poor form, it’s tough trying to pick a winner but backing this to be a low-scoring contest might just be the way to go. Despite their position, Cardiff have only the 11th best goalscoring record in the Championship with just 1.38 goals per game scored this term. Defensively they are solid though with a 46% home clean sheet ratio, which suggests the visitors will have a hard time scoring here.
Sunderland have looked more organised under their new boss. They’ve kept 4 clean sheets in their last 8 Championship games, having failed to keep a single one prior to that. However that has come at a cost, with the Black Cats offering precious little in the final third of late. Their top scorer Lewis Grabban has been recalled by parent club Bournemouth and is rumoured to be a target for this weekend’s opponents Cardiff.
That is a major fresh blow for Sunderland, with fellow forward Duncan Watmore suffering from a long-term injury to leave them short on options up top. It’s hard to see them testing this Cardiff defence but they should be competitive, with the Bluebirds looking a shadow of their former selves of late so backing Under 2.5 Goals looks the smart move here.