Both Cardiff City and Burnley are enjoying good seasons so far and both hold genuine promotion hopes going into this afternoon’s match at the Cardiff City Stadium.
The hosts Cardiff had an average season last year after their relegation from the Premier League and despite initial criticism, manager Russell Slade seems to have stabilised the club under the turbulent leadership of controversial owner Vincent Tan.
After a run of six games unbeaten, they have lost two of their last three games and have only scored six goals in their last ten games. They have only netted 17 times all season, with Joe Mason their top goalscorer.
There could be starts for loan signing Tony Watt from Charlton Athletic, which gives them an extra attacking option, and Federico Macheda may return.
A big strength for Cardiff this season has been the defence – they’ve only conceded 14 goals.
Key man Bruno Manga is hopeful of a return this afternoon which will be crucial to their defensive strength. Cardiff currently sit in ninth, just three points outside the play-off places.
Burnley have also made a confident start and find themselves in fifth and just two points off top.
They have replaced Danny Ings with Andre Gray and he has been lethal in front of goal so far with eight goals in eight games. They could have Sam Vokes back tomorrow, but Ashley Barnes and Lucas Jutkiewicz are likely to miss out.
Burnley don’t seem to have felt the loss of captain Jason Shackell to Derby County at the back as they have one of the best defences in the league, with Michael Keane in top form.
Burnley have only lost once in their last ten games and are one of the best sides on the road this season and, with Scott Arfield back, they have an extra dimension in midfield.
FootballLeagueWorld writer Michael Hasan identifies three things to look out for in this afternoon’s encounter…
1) Gray v Manga
This afternoon could see possibly the best striker in the league against the best centre back in the league go head to head.
Gray has been electric this season with eight in eight and is the key man for Burnley whilst Vokes and Barnes are out injured.
He is the focal point of Burnley’s attack and their main goal threat and, if he is stopped, then Cardiff could get a result.
Manga will be entrusted with this job, and he will need all his power if he hopes to mark Gray out of the game. It should be a fascinating battle, and could go far in deciding the outcome of the match.
2) Battle of the defences
Both sides are on good runs of form and crucial to both teams is the form of their backlines.
They have both been mean at the back and you could be forgiven for feeling that the game is a nailed on 0-0 draw.
The partnership of Keane and Ben Mee has been crucial for Burnley, whilst Cardiff rely on Manga and Matthew Connolly.
It could come down to a moment of brilliance and what striker is best in form, and Gray may be the difference with Cardiff needing Watt and Macheda to make an instant impact.
3) Cardiff struggling in front of goal
Cardiff’s big problem this season is their lack of goals and their limited options up front.
Eoin Doyle’s failure to sparkle has led to him being shipped out, and Cardiff have only scored in one in their last five games, somewhat undoing their good defensive work of getting five clean sheets in their last seven games.
They are relying on Watt to make an impact as well as Mason and Macheda to start scoring.
Cardiff and Burnley fans… how do you think the game will go? Let us know your thoughts and opinions in the comments below!