Prediction: Fulham 2-0
Fulham and Cardiff City will be hoping to take a significant step towards the Premier League as they come together in their Championship playoff semi-final second-leg at Craven Cottage.
It is the hosts who hold the advantage in the battle for a place at Wembley Stadium having run out 2-0 winners in the Welsh capital in the first-leg following goals from Josh Onomah and Neeskens Kebano.
With that victory at the Cardiff City Stadium, it would be fair to assume that Scott Parker’s men are the favourites heading into the return leg. There are a few other aspects that would put the Whites ahead, too. They had an excellent season throughout the campaign following relegation from the Premier League, eventually finishing fourth, just two points from automatic promotion and eight clear of Cardiff. The team only lost two league matches since the restart of football and even they came against teams above them in the table; Brentford and champions Leeds United. Fulham are also on a fantastic run on home soil, having won three consecutive matches at Craven Cottage and with only Leeds boasting a better home record in the league this term. They will hope that form bodes well heading into their latest playoff campaign. It is the third time out of the past four seasons that the Whites have entered the post-season competition, one of which they earned promotion against Aston Villa at Wembley, whilst they fell at the semi-final stage the season prior.
26-goal striker Aleksander Mitrovic could potentially return to the starting line-up having missed out against the Bluebirds last time out. He could replace fellow forward and former Cardiff City man Bobby Reid in attack. Elsewhere, wideman Ivan Cavaleiro remains ruled out with a hamstring injury.
Much like Fulham, the Bluebirds are striving for an instant return to the Premier League following relegation last term. They do also have added motivation to reach Wembley, with historic rivals Swansea City looking also set to overcome their semi-final opponents Brentford and reach the final. Despite having problems throughout the campaign, it was also a very promising campaign for Neil Harris’ troops, too. Only the promoted sides of Leeds United and West Bromwich Albion lost fewer games than Cardiff’s 11. However, it is now important that the Bluebirds win the game against Fulham if they want their promotion hopes to stay alive. Their recent away record should give them encouragement to do that. Since the turn of the year, Cardiff have only lost three away league matches – to Queens Park Rangers, Stoke City and somewhat worryingly Fulham. Of the ten away games they have played since New Year, they have won six and will hope to add another against Fulham.
Striker Isaac Vassell remains ruled out for the Bluebirds having been injured since mid-March. However, the team will be boosted by the return of Greg Cunningham who is back in training.
Key Facts To Consider
- Fulham have the better head-to-head record between the two teams (W29, D13, L25)
- The Whites have not lost to Cardiff in three matches this season
- A team has not lost a play-off semi final after winning the first leg away from home since 2000/01
- Aleksander Mitrovic has scored 26 Championship goals this season, more than any other player
- Only West Bromwich Albion and Leeds United lost fewer games than Cardiff this season
It’s certainly tough to see Cardiff coming back from the deficit that they they incurred in the first-leg, especially with Championship top scorer Mitrovic back in action. Fulham are more likely to add to their lead and book their place at Wembley with another comfortable victory.
Prediction: Fulham 2-0
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