Cardiff City and Mick McCarthy are facing a huge first game back after the international break when they take on fierce rivals Swansea City away from home on Sunday.
The Bluebirds entered the international break under intense scrutiny from supporters following a dismal run of five successive defeats in the Championship.
During that time they have been battered 5-1 at Blackburn Rovers and 4-0 at home to West Brom, and have scored just once in those five games.
Unsurprisingly that form has seen McCarthy’s side plummet down the Championship table and they are sat in 20th place heading into the game.
That is one place behind Swansea, who have a slightly better goal difference and who have also lost just once in their last five.
The Bluebirds’ hierarchy have for now made the decision to stick by McCarthy and put their faith in him to turn Cardiff’s form and their season around in the next few weeks.
That is something that McCarthy was able to do last season after taking over from Neil Harris.
However, this time around he is under a lot more pressure with some supporters already feeling he might not be the right man to lead them forwards.
With all of that in mind, we take a look at TWO things McCarthy needs to weigh up ahead of the vital derby clash with Swansea…
Whether to stick with formation tweaks made in Reading defeat
McCarthy had been attempting to stick with the 3-4-1-2 formation during Cardiff’s difficult period of form, but the back-to-back heavy defeats by Blackburn Rovers and West Brom forced his hand.
Against Reading last time out, the Bluebirds lined up in more of a 4-2-3-1 formation and the result was a much-improved display from Cardiff.
That was certainly the case from an attacking perspective as they took the game to the Royals and created much more issues going forwards than they have done for most of the campaign.
The Bluebirds managed to register 27 attempts on goal, compared with just two efforts from Reading. Although they ended up on the wrong side of the result, it was clear for all to see that Cardiff had been much better and that the players had been fighting for their manager.
You would have to expect that McCarthy would stick with that 4-2-3-1 formation and keep the likes of Mark McGuinness at right-back and Ciaron Brown down the left-hand side, with both Aden Flint and Curtis Nelson potentially keeping their places.
Cardiff must make the most of their chances against a Swansea side who have shown that they can keep clean sheets in the Championship this season.
It is expected that the Swans will have more of the ball but McCarthy must still find a way to get his side to continue to be a threat in the final third.
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How to get the best out of Kieffer Moore following Wales exploits
Last season the form of Kieffer Moore was a huge factor in Cardiff’s resurgence under McCarthy when he first took over from Harris, and the Wales international finished the campaign with a highly impressive tally of 20 goals in 42 Championship appearances.
The forward was linked with potential moves away during the summer transfer window as a result of that form, with Wolves in particular strongly linked with a move for him before ultimately opting not to bring him into the club before the window shut.
Moore’s drop off in form so far this season has been very concerning for Cardiff and the forward has so far managed to score just once in his opening 11 Championship appearances. That came in their 2-0 win at Blackpool back in August and since then he has been unable to either get enough service or take advantage of some chances that have come his way.
McCarthy made the brave call to drop Moore for the Bluebirds’ 4-0 defeat against West Brom with Ryan Giles partnering summer signing James Collins in attack.
However, Moore was restored to the starting line-up against Reading and he delivered a reaction with him managing to have two efforts on goal and produce two key passes.
Cardiff will have been thrilled to see Moore manage to get on the scoresheet for Wales in their narrow 1-0 win at Estonia in their 2022 FIFA World Cup qualifier during the international break.
The hope will be that gives him some new confidence and helps him to get his form back on track.
McCarthy has to find a way of getting the right service up to Moore against Swansea, if he can do that then there is a chance the forward can once again be the difference-maker for Cardiff.