Cardiff FanZoner Ivor Castle previews Saturday's Premier League visit of an inconsistent but dangerous Newcastle side to Cardiff City Stadium.
As Cardiff grabbed their first Premier League away win at Fulham last Saturday, they also passed two significant tests.
Firstly, they bounced back from defeat at home to Spurs and second they showed they are structured to win games on the road, something that will be hugely important in the coming months.
The next test is massive. As good as the win against Manchester City was, the relief at the dogged draw with Everton and the performance of the team in the loss to Spurs, Newcastle now provide a much more interesting match-up.
Where Cardiff defended for their lives in the first three home games, they will be expected to play a more attack minded game against the Magpies. The win over Fulham will have boosted confidence and the fans expectations.
Alan Pardew's team right now are rather hot and cold. An opening day thumping at Manchester City was proceeded by a recovery draw at home to West Ham 0-0. Two wins followed, one at home to Fulham 1-0 and the other at Aston Villa 2-1. Next followed 3-2 losses at home to Hull City and at Everton. Inconsistent is the label for the Geordies right now.
Newcastle United boasts a bevy of sparkling internationals. Of course Yohan Cabaye leads the way and his half-time introduction to the line-up at Everton almost turned around a 3-0 half-time deficit as the Magpies pulled two back inspired by the mercurial Frenchman. Add Loic Remy, Pappis Cisse, Moussa Sissoko, Hatem Ben Arfa and the class of this Newcastle team is obvious.
Just as in the first three home games Cardiff has denied their opponents space in the final third, they will have to do the same in the next. Despite Newcastle's obvious inconsistencies, admitted by Pardew himself at the post game interview following the Everton game, they are far too dangerous in attack to take lightly.
Where Newcastle can be caught is on recovering after they lose the ball. The Bluebirds have showed an enormous appetite for hard work, staying in shape and are tremendously well organized, something Pardew's team could learn from.
Newcastle is in 16th place and one point below Cardiff. If they are still in that place after the game this Saturday, Cardiff will be satisfied, if not entirely so.
To take Cabaye and co. lightly by thinking City can press forward on the front foot would be to tempt disaster. Right now the Magpies are a poor man's Spurs. They have the flair and imagination but lack the solidity and organization. Alan Pardew could be coaching a team ready to explode and charge up the table, certainly a top ten finish is in their control, or he could continue to endure the troubling inconsistency that has dogged them for so long.
Malky Mackay has a massive decision to make. This result will be a defining one in the early season jostling for position. While most Cardiff fans will expect a win, I'm not so sure it is likely. It is achievable for sure but the outcome will depend more on Newcastle's form than it will on Cardiff's .
How Mackay lines his team up and how he approaches this game could be a more difficult decision than any yet taken this season. Up to now he has almost always called things correctly and navigated the right course. He will need to do the same thing on Saturday.
I anticipate a same again home philosophy, where Newcastle will be afforded the very same respect as Manchester City, Everton and Spurs were given.
The Cardiff fans will be expecting a win I'm sure. Expectations are rising as the season takes shape. I hope for the win but I expect the draw. Although somehow I feel a Premier League learning lesson coming on and a Newcastle win a distinct possibility.
By Ivor Castle.
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