Forest can storm a march on promotion rivals by sinking Slade
The home team has scored three times in both of Cardiff City and Nottingham Forest’s previous two meetings, so Coral offer odds of 3/1 on that being the precise match total in their Saturday lunchtime encounter live on Sky.
Russell Slade makes his dugout debut as Bluebirds boss here, and odds of 6/4 say controversial Cardiff owner Vincent Tan will get the customary reaction from appointing a new manager by seeing his side win. Forest, however, are unbeaten and joint-top of the Championship under Stuart Pearce, alongside Norwich City and Watford, and are 7/4 to come away from the Welsh capital with three points.
Having lost once at home in this fixture since 1976, the Bluebirds certainly have history on their side. Slade tended to play 4-4-2 at Leyton Orient, which was the formation largely used by Cardiff predecessor Ole Gunnar Solskjaer prior to his dismissal. The new manager must seek the right striking blend, and has plenty of options in attack.
Target man Kenwyne Jones should continue to lead the Bluebirds line as he is their top scorer with five. He is 5/4 to net anytime in this fixture, and 5/1 to grab the first goal. Proven Championship poacher Adam le Fondre, meanwhile, is yet to break his Cardiff duck since signing from Reading this summer, and getting the best out of him is one of Slade’s problems that needs addressing.
Le Fondre is the same price as Jones in the scoring markets, but there is also Nicky Maynard (7/4 to be on target), Federico Macheda and Javi Guerra (both 2/1 chances) as potential partners for the big Trinidad and Tobago international. Using West Ham United loanee Ravel Morrison, an 11/4 chance to net anytime, off the front is an alternative if Slade sets his side up in a 4-2-3-1.
A decisive factor in this meeting of two second-tier teams with plenty of resources could be the performance of playmakers. For Forest, Andy Reid is sidelined until 2015, so the onus is on Henri Lansbury for creativity. Slade, meanwhile, must decide whether to use Peter Whittingham in central midfield or from the flank.
The Bluebirds seem to achieve a better balance when he partners Aron Gunnarsson, and there are several genuine widemen to select as well. Punters must always consider Whittingham in goal markets, because of his proficiency with a dead ball, and it’s 7/2 that he strikes against Forest anytime here.
Reds boss Pearce is buoyed by the fact that midfield anchor David Vaughan and centre back Kelvin Wilson, a candidate to skipper the side in the absence of Reid and Chris Cohen, have travelled to the Welsh capital. ‘Psycho’, as fans of the Nottingham club affectionately nicknamed their manager during his playing days, will be targeting something similar to the 2-0 win in Cardiff of 2010 at odds of 14/1 for a repeat result.
Forest will unleash not so secret weapon Britt Assombalonga on the Bluebirds. He is the Championship’s leading marksman with eight, but is on a four-game goal drought. Odds of 7/4 say he will end that here, however, anytime.
Pearce has target man Dexter Blackstock fit following a serious knee injury, and he was on target to round off the scoring during that rare win in Cardiff almost four years ago. Why not back him to come off the bench and net last at 7/1?
It’s a tough contest to call this one, and that makes odds for a draw at 23/10 very tempting indeed, especially as Forest have drawn their last four league outings, and the Bluebirds have failed to win seven of their last eight.