It’s now or never for bottom clubs Cardiff and Fulham
If ever the Cardiff manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer needed some of his famous goal-poaching skills to start rubbing off on his misfiring forwards, it is in this Saturday’s bottom of the Premier League clash against Fulham, the team with by far the leakiest defence in the division.
It’s been squeaky bum time for the Bluebirds and the Cottagers for some months now and if either are going to perform the great escape from relegation, it needs to start happening now. A draw isn’t much good to either side and would still leave them propping up the table. Both teams have to go for it.
Cardiff (13/10) shaped a good deal better when losing 1-0 at Spurs last week (with Solskjaer adopting a 3-5-2 formation) than they did when capitulating at home to Hull the week before and perhaps the former Manchester United striker is beginning to get his messages across.
Fulham played well enough in parts when drawing at West Brom and then holding Chelsea at home for almost an hour last weekend to suggest that all is not yet lost under new boss Felix Magath, but time is running out for them as well.
Stoke have excelled at home against the better teams this season, Arsenal being their latest high-profile scalps. They haven’t enjoyed anything like the same sort of success away from the Potteries, however, and might struggle again at Norwich (6/5), especially with Charlie Adam starting his three-game ban.
The Canaries have been pretty in-and-out themselves this season, but they haven’t conceded a goal in their last four Premier League matches at Carrow Road. They will need that sort of defensive resolve to stay out of the relegation zone and it is crucial they pick up points in games like this before they face their nightmare finishing run of fixtures – Liverpool at home, Man United away, Chelsea away and Arsenal at home.
Southampton (6/5) have nothing really left to play for in terms of Premier League status, but their four World Cup wanabees will be eager to carry on impressing and I suspect they will have too much for Crystal Palace, who are in great danger of being sucked back into the drop zone.
West Brom are another side in deep trouble and are unlikely to do as well against Man United (8/11) as they did when shocking the Reds at Old Trafford in September.
United won’t be as cautious at the Hawthorns as they were against Olympiakos and I would expect the return of Juan Mata and Adnan Januzaj to provide enough assistance for Robin van Persie and Wayne Rooney to put the Baggies to the sword.