Cardiff City manager Russell Slade will meet a familiar opponent on Saturday as Steve Evans’ Rotherham United visit Cardiff City Stadium for a Sky Bet Championship fixture.
The Millers saw off Slade’s Leyton Orient on penalties in last season’s League 1 Play-Off Final at Wembley, and though Slade is now in charge of a different Club, he insists he still relishes the chance to renew his professional rivalry with opposite number Evans.
“There is no question that Rotherham will play with real intensity,” Russell said. “Any team managed by Steve will do that as a minimum. They will work hard and do all they can to make it difficult for Cardiff.
“It hurt losing to them in the play-off final last May. It was a major blow, especially as Orient had massively over achieved last season. The Play-Off system can be so cruel sometimes, but I am happy to be Cardiff manager now. It's a wonderful opportunity for me, lot of work ahead but I am ready for that and will enjoy that. The team have been good over recent weeks and that would be topped by another winning display against Rotherham.
“Steve has taken action to freshen up the group who earned promotion for Rotherham last season by recently adding four loan signings, and they are working hard to maintain their Championship status. They will be relentless in what they do, play ugly if it’s needed and dig out points this season. In terms of qualities, they will be in your face, stop your fluency and will make life difficult for us by closing us down. Having said that, though, the four new signings suggest that Steve is looking to implement a slightly different angle to the team. They are good technical players, two of them ex-Manchester United (Tom Lawrence and Scott Wootton) and Emmanuel Ledesma is known for his quality. Maybe they represent a shift in what he is trying to do. I don't know, but I see a shift in terms of the signings he has made.
“At the same time, though, we have a little momentum at home now, and we always do look as if we can score. Now we want to make that last as long as possible. Confidence plays a big part and that brings out other elements, like character, something which was clear at Watford.
“We are making progress and that’s been the same for a number of weeks. I see those improvements day-by-day; sometimes that isn’t clear on pitch and I accept that, but I see the improvement in training and we are moving forward. We can never say we will win a match, but we can control our attitude and to some extent our performance. I see every day how hard they are working at the moment. I saw at Birmingham a battle-hardened team trying to dig out a result and you need those qualities. Now we have our away win.
“We will be fully prepared for what will be a major test for our players.”
The manager then provided his weekly injury updates, with Anthony Pilkington having sustained an injury in last weekend’s win at Watford, Bruno Ecuele Manga still on the mend and long-term absentee Kagisho Dikgacoi targeting a return sometime in the New Year.
“It’s going to be a minimum of three-to-four weeks before Pilks is back,” Slade said. “He has a hamstring injury. With Pilkington there are a few options; before we train I have what I want to do in my mind. There are a few (players) in my thinking. Bruno Manga has not yet trained. He’s had his injection, but it’s not worked as well as we would have wanted to. Therefore he’s still unavailable, and that’s a blow. He was due back in training yesterday. Dikgacoi has a serious injury and he is out until well into the New Year. Then he faces a long haul back to full fitness.”