Match Preview | Bristol City vs. Cardiff City
A Severnside derby like no other takes place this weekend, with Ashton Gate playing venue to an unprecedented behind-closed-door fixture between the Bluebirds and Robins.
What remains unaffected, though, is the impact three points could have on both sides’ seasons. Severnside derbies usually have something riding on them (often top-six ambitions in recent years) and on Saturday, a win for Neil Harris’ men could all but end the Bristolians hopes of a Play-Off berth.
For the Bluebirds, victory would keep them in sixth and potentially help them continue to fend off an in-form Derby County side who moved to within a point of them on Wednesday evening.
The Robins went into lockdown in poor form (two draws on the back of three defeats) and have come out the other side in worse.
Blackburn Rovers (City’s opponents on Tuesday evening), put Lee Johnson’s side to the sword 3-1 on June 20th and, subsequent to that, Bristol have endured defeats against Sheffield Wednesday (2-1 at Ashton Gate) and Nottingham Forest (1-0 on Wednesday). Former Wales skipper and Swansea City defender Ashley Williams was shown a red card at the City Ground, too, meaning an enforced shake-up at the back will be needed this weekend.
Our Severnside neighbours have flirted with the top-six throughout the season without ever establishing themselves firmly within it; spells of consistency early in the campaign and just after Christmas have ensured that they still remain in with a mathematical shout going into the final six games.
Ones to watch
Senegalese striker Famara Diedhiou leads the way in the scoring ranks for the Robins, having scored 10 goals in 35 games this term to date. He’s been left on the bench in Bristol’s last two fixtures though, with £5m man Nahki Wells the preferred choice in the central striker role of late.
Former Villa and Derby man, Andreas Weimann, has bagged nine goals to date, whilst on-loan Stoke forward Benik Afobe and Jamie Paterson have each contributed in front of goal this term. There’s talent in the middle of the park, too, courtesy of Ireland international Callum O’Dowda and Korey Smith, each of whom have close to 200 career appearances for the Robins under the belts thus far.
The aforementioned Ashley Williams is likely to be replaced in defence by Tomáš Kalas or on-loan Leicester man Filip Benković, whilst under-fire Daniel Bentley is set to return between the sticks in place of Niki Mäenpää who started ahead of him against Forest.
In the hotseat
Lee Johnson made close to 200 appearances for Bristol City as a player but has enjoyed peaks and troughs as manager since taking control of the club back in 2016.
Having driven the Robins away from relegation during the 2015/16 campaign, Johnson’s side teetered on the brink of the drop the following year; the 2017/18 season, however, saw Bristol City reach the League Cup semi-final and an 11th place finish, before they secured eighth spot last season – their best finish since 2007/08.
Johnson signed a new four-year deal at the club last summer to take him through to the end of the 2023 season. He follows in the footsteps at Ashton Gate of his father, Gary, who managed the Robins between 2005 and 2010.