What Cardiff City Must Do to Stop Manchester City
The Bluebirds will host Manchester City on Sunday, and they will be hoping the home advantage gives them a little boost for what will be a tough match. Cardiff lost to West Ham 2-0 in their first match of the season.
That game showcased a lot of weaknesses that Malky Mackay had to resolve before the title contenders came visiting. Most of what Mackay needs to do to have any chance of stopping City will require changes in the defensive mindset and the setup of the side.
Cardiff City won't be able to possess the ball like they did against West Ham, meaning there will be very few attacking moves from the home side.
The Welsh side should consider it a victory if they escape from the game with a point. Here's a few things they must do to stop Manchester City getting a win.
Play 4-4-1-1, 4-1-4-1 or 4-5-1
The first thing Cardiff City needs to do is to set out in defensive shape. The Bluebirds used a 4-2-3-1 formation in the game against West Ham, but they won't be able to be as adventurous against Manchester City.
The same players could be involved, but the two wide, attacking players should be given more reserved roles in order to assist their full-back partners.
This will be especially important on the left side of the pitch, with the Citizens now boasting a true wide threat in the form of Jesus Navas.
Malky Mackay should go for a formation that clogs the midfield spaces and gives his side options out wide as well. Any one of these formations above would work.
Hustle and Defend Deep, but Not Too Deep
This isn't something many football fans would like to see happen in a game, this author included, but sometimes getting a result does require the "parking the bus" method.
Cardiff City certainly has no shortage of examples of this style being used across Europe in the last few seasons, and they can try to emulate it. Manchester City may not be on the level of Barcelona possession-wise, but they will dominate the ball during the encounter.
Newcastle left spaces all over the pitch for City to exploit and a 4-0 loss was the result. Cardiff City could suffer a much worse scoreline if they leave similar spaces.
Cardiff doesn't need to put 10 men behind the ball and stuff them into the 18-yard box, but two well-drilled banks of four should give them a good chance of survival. That, and a bit of energy and bite in the tackle—something Gary Medel constantly provides—and they should frustrate the visiting side.
Use Width and Pace When Attacking
Pace and width should be the name of the game when Cardiff City attacks. Malky Mackay will have a decision to make when it comes to who starts the forward role, but he should go with Frazier Campbell.
Manchester City will push a lot of players forward to break down Cardiff City, provided they defend deep as expected, and the Welsh side will need to get the ball forward quickly whenever they get the chance.
The pace of the two wide players and the forward can pose problems for City on the break, and may lead to Cardiff getting one or two good chances.
Focus on Set-Pieces
Cardiff City whould ensure they are the better side on both attacking and defending set-pieces.
The Bluebirds have a good set-piece taker in Peter Whittingham, who will have targets like Steven Caulker and Ben Turner to look for. Malky Mackay could also opt for Andreas Cornelius, or bring him on, to provide another threat.
Aside from the delivery, set-pieces are about desire and the prospect of holding, and maybe even beating Manchester City should ensure that Cardiff City players are at their best on set-pieces.
Manage the Game and Keep the Focus
Time-wasting from minute one isn't a smart move, but Cardiff City must find a way to slow the game as much as possible.
They should be focused non-stop when they are defending, and smart in their decision-making when they do have the ball. It will be difficult to put together the style of defending and attacking that's necessary to pull off a result in a match like this, but Cardiff can definitely grab a point if they pull it off.
The Cardiff City players know what they are up against, especially after seeing Manchester City's performance against Newcastle, and that should ensure that they focused on the task at hand.
The first and most important thing during the entire match will be to nullify the City attack. If all goes well in that aspect, they can use their time on the ball to trouble the City defense.