Talking Tactics | Cardiff City v Swansea City
Football stats experts preview Swansea City's Championship clash with Cardiff City, and identify Andre Ayew as a key man in the South Wales derby.
It's amazing what a positive run of form can do in the Championship.
In one of the tightest races for promotion, three wins and one draw in the last five has thrust Swansea back up into sixth and just two points off third at the time of writing ahead of Sunday's testing trip to fierce rivals Cardiff.
Swansea earned bragging rights in the south Wales derby on home turf back in October as Ben Wilmot's first-half header proved the difference in a hard-fought 1-0 win.
It'll be a more testing affair for the Swans at midday on Sunday, however. Cardiff have lost only one of their last 12 home league matches, and their 25 home points accumulated this season is the fourth best in the division.
The Swans, though, have won the last two league meetings between the pair and after a series of positive league results across the festive period, they'll be aiming to further dent the Bluebirds' play-off push. Cardiff may be putting in a series of commendable performances under Neil Harris, yet just one win in their last seven in all competitions suggests the new manager bounce has since worn off on the back of his November appointment.
And while Cardiff's sole home league defeat this season came prior to Harris' reign kicking off, Swans boss Steve Cooper is able to call upon the Championship's form player to maintain the promotion push.
Andre Ayew was named the WhoScored.com player of the month for December with a fine rating of 7.89 as the 30-year-old put in man-of-the-match displays against Blackburn, Middlesbrough and Luton, netting five times in total to get the Swans' quest for a Premier League return firmly back on track.
With three star men awards last month, it means only Eberechi Eze (eight) and Jarrod Bowen (six) have earned more WhoScored.com man-of-the-match awards than Ayew (five) in the Championship this season and it wouldn't be a huge surprise to see him add to that this weekend.
While Cardiff have been impressive on home turf, they have kept just two clean sheets in their last seven home league matches and top scorer Ayew (nine league goals) will fancy his chances of getting on the scoresheet at the Cardiff City Stadium.
Boasting five statistically-calculated WhoScored.com strengths, including 'finishing', Cardiff left-back Joe Bennett faces a tough afternoon in his task of keeping Ayew quiet. The defender has earned a solid WhoScored.com rating of 6.76 this season, but with a WhoScored.com weakness of 'tackling', this defensive flaw could prove costly, particularly with Ayew routinely looking to drift inside from the right to maximise his favoured left foot, which has seen the Ghanaian develop a style of play of 'likes to cut inside'.
There is more than local pride at stake in the latest instalment of the south Wales derby and it could prove that Ayew makes the difference for Cooper's side once more as they seek another vital three points.
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