Friday 17 October 2008

Cardiff City Preview

With all the news and views this week surrounding the potential takeover at The Valley, it would be pretty easy to forget that there is a game to be played this weekend. The Addicks make their way across the Anglo-Welsh border to take on Cardiff in a match would could see us overtake our hosts in the table to get somewhere close to the play-off places, or conversely edge closer towards the relegation trap door. Our opponents are not to be taken lightly having made a solid start to the season, losing just once. A mid-week victory at Ninian Park in early December last season was an encouraging victory, even if things unravelled shortly afterwards, and we will do well to get a similar result tomorrow.

Having missed the last couple of games, I feel slightly out of touch with proceedings but have read enough reports to understand that things have not drastically improved following the Sheffield Wednesday game. One thing I have stressed from the start of the season, and which I thought Pardew was doing quite well at at the start of season, is the need to keep a settled starting XI. It seems however that AP has got back into the habit of tinkering with the side in an attempt to chance upon a winning formula. It strikes me that he really does not know what is best team is and this, more than anything, is my biggest concern.

Another worry is his recent habit of switching to 4-5-1 for away fixtures. If it was an effective alternative then I could perhaps understand, but it doesn't exactly seemed to worked wonders. It is pretty obvious to everybody watching that Luke Varney is not a lone striker and never will be. So the formation essentially dictates that we soak up pressure, try and hold out for a draw and sneak a goal if we're lucky. This is hardly the style of football of a team confident of gaining promotion.

Anyway, we are where we are and Mr. Pardew has some interesting decisions to make ahead of the trip to Cardiff. Whilst the loud cries on the Charlton blogs for the return of Yassin Moutaouakil to the right back spot continue to go unheard, there is the distinct possibility that Jose Semedo will claim the position following Martin Cranie's dismal showing against Ipswich. I can't imagine the remaining three at the back changing, although I wouldn't be surprised to see Cranie partner Hudson at centre half in place of Linvoy Primus. Youga continues to do just enough to deny Grant Basey a starting berth at left back.

The midfield line up has become a bit confused of late, although things have been simplified somewhat by the news that Zheng Zhi will be out for the next two to three months following foot surgery (more). I've expressed my disappointment at ZZ's absence enough times and I do now wonder whether we will seem him in the red of Charlton again. There must be wide spread relief amongst the Addickted that Nicky Bailey has recovered in time to start in the centre of midfield, presumably alongside Matt Holland. If Pardew does decide to go for 4-5-1, then there could be room for Darren Ambrose in the middle of the park too, with Sam and Bouazza on the wing. Sam is the player likely to make way if he decides to go for 4-4-2, with Ambrose moving to the right.

Up front, I'd be pretty frustrated if I was Andy Gray. You're the club's top scorer of the campaign, finding some form and score the only goal in a hard fought away win at Doncaster. You then get dropped for the next game at Forest, and then make way for Darren Ambrose against Palace and for a striker only just returning to fitness against Ipswich. All the while Luke Varney is not exactly firing them in left, right and centre. I doubt he'll get a start tomorrow but I wish he would. I imagine Varney will be up front by himself in a 4-5-1 or partnering Svetoslav Todorov in a 4-4-2.

The team Pardew puts out probably depends on what he has for breakfast, but I'm predicting the following: Weaver; Semedo, Hudson, Primus, Youga; Sam, Ambrose, Bailey, Holland, Bouazza; Varney. Subs: Elliot, Cranie, Basey, Todorov, Gray.

I can't imagine this being a very pretty game and any points we take away we will have to work hard for. Pardew needs to get his team selection correct, but the players also need to prove that they have the stomach for a fight. With potential new owners looking on, everybody should be aware of the need to make a good impression. I hope they do just that.

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