After draws against Sheffield Wednesday and Millwall – with two contrasting performances – Neil Warnock has got some big decisions to make with the first South Wales Derby of the season just a few days away. Question marks remain over defensive pairings, midfield configurations, and our attacking three. In this piece, our writers take a look at what team Warnock will put out on Sunday…
Ben James – @benjaminjames27
Defence: Pelts, Flint, Moz, Bennett
Midfield: Pack, Ralls, Tomlin
Attacking three: Hoilett, Ward, Murphy
Following Tuesday’s draw with Millwall, the main questions hover over the defence. Both goals were avoidable and the majority of the blame is being levelled at Flint and Moz. For the first goal, Flint was too slow to get out to the ball and couldn’t cut out the pass, leaving us open and exposed. For the second goal, the midfield failed to track and Moz committed too much, leaving gaps behind him. It was frustrating, especially when you consider they had defended well for the majority of the 90 minutes. The chatter across the Cardiff zeitgeist is that Bamba should be favoured on Sunday but I just don’t think he can be thrown in that deep and I’d trust Moz to put in a big performance come Sunday.
In midfield, I think he’ll stick rather than twist. Ralls was tenacious on Tuesday, snapping into challenges. Pack looked slightly off the pace, losing his man for the second goal and while Tomlin showed a few neat touches, the game largely passed him by. That said, unless Bacuna is favoured, I can’t see any changes here.
If Hoilett is fit, he has to start. A goal and an assist against Millwall really showed what we missed. Ward has continued his purple patch and caused the Millwall defence trouble all night. So he’s a must. The slightly wildcard choice I can see is Murphy getting a start. Whyte was good against Millwall but I wonder if Warnock will favour that out and out attacking intent that Murphy brings. Yes he’s inconsistent but there needs to be an element of trust and Murphy could well be a difference maker on Sunday.
Paul Gronow – @bluebirdblogger
Defence: Peltier, Morrison, Flint, Bennett
Whilst it may be tempting to bring big Sol back in time to galvanize a somewhat beleaguered defence, it would be the wrong decision for me. Sol is the oldest of the bunch and has not played a competitive game since March; in addition to that we can’t risk rushing him back too soon only to see him injure himself again and miss even more matches. The others remain because Peltier has generally been great and there’s no one else to replace the other three.
Midfield: Ralls, Pack, Whyte, Murphy (if Hoilett is injured) and Tomlin
Pack is generally Mr Steady and is the safest pair of hands we have in the centre of the park, Ralls is the closest thing we have to home grown and on his day can win us the match. Hoilett deserves to start after last night’s performance and Whyte offers more at both ends of the pitch than Mendez, we will need someone quick to help Pelts. Tomlin starts because he’s our best player. Facts.
Attack: Danny Ward
There should be no debate about this, his movement and eye for goal is unparalleled by our strike force and his goals per game ratio is far, far better than Warnock’s favoured striker, Robert Glatzel.
Scott Salter – @scottsltr
Peltier – Morrison – Nelson – Bennett
Ralls – Pack
Whyte – Paterson – Hoilett (Murphy if JH injured)
It’s a controversial line up, I know, but I think that’s the line up to come out victorious on Sunday.
At the back the shock is Nelson in for Flint. I think Flint has been poor recently and if it wasn’t Swansea, Nelson would be in Im sure. But what better game to throw him in? He’d be up for it I’m sure. I also think Swansea will look to exploit a lack of pace from Mozza and Flint, so Nelson counters that. Bamba is the preference but it’s too soon. I’d drop Bennett too if Cunningham was still here.
In midfield it’s Paterson over Tomlin. I think we’ll be starved of possession and Paterson allows us to play direct. Give Tomlin the chance to come on against a tired defence and unpick them.
I think Hoilett and Whyte should be our first choice wing pairing, but Murphy gets the nod if Hoilett is out. Ward keeps his place over Glatzel after his goal in midweek.
Charlie Cottrell – @cottreii
Peltier – Morrison – Flint – Bennett
Ralls – Pack
Whyte – Tomlin – Murphy
With only one loss in the League since the end of August, I’m backing Warnock to pick a team that can grind it out this weekend, whilst peppering the team with that bit of flair we need to hold up. Win your home’s and draw your away’s, they say, and I think a draw at the Liberty on the weekend would be more than sufficient considering the disappointment suffered mid-week; granted, with a draw, but against a far weaker side in a game holding far less importance.
Key starters for me: Pack and Tomlin. Pack is the grit we need to keep things solid in the middle, and he allows Ralls a bit of freedom to attack. Tomlin is an absolute must, and very few would disagree. The South Wales derby can be a game of fine margins, and Tomlin is one of the few players who can tip the balance with the drop of a shoulder or a pin-point pass (like a certain Craig Bellamy, and we know what he can do at the Liberty). First name on the teamsheet on Sunday, for me.
Perhaps some more questionable choices: Whyte and Ward. Whilst the young Irish winger could prove too lightweight for such an embittered occasion, he’s also exactly the type of player to get under the skin of the Jack’s and I think he’s worth the gamble. Hoilett is also a great asset to come off the bench. With respect to Danny Ward, I think he pips Glatzel for the big one. He bagged on Tuesday, so it’d be churlish to drop him again. But I’m a still a big advocate of Glatzel, and feel the criticism of him is a little unfair considering the thankless role he plays for us.