Scott Parker explains the absence of 26-goal Mitrovic … sort of. “He has been a large part of what we have done this year, so it’s a big blow for us. He’s got a slight problem he’s picked up, and this is over two legs, it’s not going to be decided tonight, so we’ve had to make a calculated decision on getting him right and ready for Thursday. It’s too big a risk tonight for what he’s got. We adapted well [when he was recently suspended for three matches] and people stepped up. That’s going to be needed tonight. We’ve gone three games without him straight after lockdown, so hopefully we can do that again. We’ve come here to try to win.”
Cardiff boss Neil Harris is very much a disciple of the If It Ain’t Broke philosophy. The Bluebirds are three wins on the bounce right now, so he names the same XI that started the 3-0 win over Hull City.
Fulham make three changes to the team named for the 1-1 draw at in-form yet doomed Wigan Athletic. Cyrus Christie, Harrison Reed and Bobby De Cordova-Reid replace Denis Odoi, Harry Arter and Championship top-scorer Aleksandar Mitrovic, who has picked up a knock and been given the night off as a precautionary measure. Ivan Cavaleiro remains hamstrung.
Cardiff City: Smithies, Bacuna, Morrison, Nelson, Bennett, Pack, Ralls, Tomlin, Mendez-Laing, Hoilett, Glatzel.
Subs: Etheridge, Sanderson, Flint, Bamba, Smith, Vaulks, Murphy, Paterson, Ward.
Fulham: Rodak, Hector, Kebano, Cairney, Ream, Cordova-Reid, Reed, Christie, Bryan, Knockaert, Onomah.
Subs: Bettinelli, Mawson, Sessegnon, Odoi, Le Marchand, McDonald, Johansen, Kamara, Jasper.
Referee: Geoff Eltringham (Tyne & Wear).
The Championship play-offs have a distinctly Cymraeg flavour this season. Swansea are already halfway to the final, having beaten Brentford 1-0 in the first leg of their semi last night. Now it’s their old pals Cardiff’s turn, as the Bluebirds attempt to get a result against Fulham that makes the prospect of an historic South Walian stramash on Sunday that little more likely.
The only problem for Cardiff is that Fulham are one of the form sides in the country right now. Scott Parker’s team have won five and drawn two of their last seven games. The Cottagers ended the season in fourth, one win shy of automatic promotion – and that end-of-season streak included a 2-0 victory over the Bluebirds. They also earned a draw at the Cardiff City Stadium back in August when down to ten men.
Cardiff can, however, point to some very decent form themselves. They won the last three games of the regular season, the strongest finish at the extreme business end of all teams in the division bar champions Leeds United. That run allowed them to tear past a rapidly splintering Nottingham Forest and take the prize of a place in these play-offs. They’ll be full of confidence as well.
So Fulham go into this two-legged affair as favourites … but nothing’s ever certain in the play-offs. It could be cagey. It could be crazy. Mae ymlaen!
Kick off: 7.45pm BST.
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