Talking Tactics | Cardiff City v Swansea City
It's the south Wales Derby this weekend as domestic duties resume with a bang for Swansea City.
Ahead of the trip to Cardiff, WhoScored.com have previewed the encounter, looking at what to expect from the Bluebirds, the key battle and a key stat.
What to expect from Cardiff
Cardiff City sacked Mick McCarthy back in October and placed Steve Morison in charge.
At the time, the Bluebirds were in dire straits after a poor run, which included a 3-0 loss at the Swansea.com Stadium in the reverse fixture.
It wasn't until early November that Morison earned his first win as Cardiff boss, but since that victory, they have started to climb away from danger.
They come into Saturday's derby just two points behind the Swans after a fine March that saw them pick up 10 points from 12 available.
Morison has reverted to a three-man backline and that setup has helped the club move 18 points clear of the relegation zone.
With Championship football all but guaranteed for another season, Bluebirds fans will head to the final weeks of 2021-22 with a growing sense of optimism.
Jordan Hugill has proven a solid January addition to ease the departure of Kieffer Moore to Bournemouth. The issue for Morison has been who partners the 29-year-old. Ruben Colwill started, and scored, in the 2-1 win over QPR in early March, but Mark Harris started the 2-1 win over Stoke prior to the international break.
The midfield trio will likely be Tommy Doyle, Joe Ralls and Ryan Wintle once more.
Ralls is the key ball winner in the middle of the park with 2.2 tackles per game the second best of all Cardiff players, while Doyle (1.8) isn't afraid to get stuck in either. The former, meanwhile, is one of the Bluebirds' primary creative players, with a 1.6 key passes per game the best of all current Cardiff players.
At the back, the absence of Sean Morrison and Curtis Nelson means Perry Ng, a full-back by trade, should feature alongside Aden Flint and Mark McGuinness in the three-man backline once more. It is a system that has actually worked well for Cardiff, with Ng's best-rated position coming at centre-back, where he has earned a WhoScored.com rating of 6.98.
The battle of the two captains should be key on Saturday. Joe Ralls has taken over the armband in the absence of Sean Morrison and has thrived with the added responsibility.
Indeed, a WhoScored.com rating of 6.93 is the third best of all Cardiff players this season, with the 28-year-old impressing both on and off the ball in 2021-22.
It'll be up to Matt Grimes to ensure Ralls is unable to maximise a statistically calculated WhoScored.com strength of 'key passes' at the Cardiff City Stadium this weekend.
The Swansea skipper is an impressive performer when out of possession, with his average of 1.2 tackles per game the fourth-best of all current Swansea players, but it's Grimes' superb distribution that could be crucial in limiting Cardiff's goalscoring chances.
Grimes is averaging more passes per game (101) than any other player in England's second tier this term, while a 91.1% pass success rate is the fourth best in the division.
Cardiff's possession average of 43% is the lowest in the 2021-22 Championship campaign, so they can expect to see little of the ball on Saturday. It'll be up to Grimes to ensure they are unable to capitalise on the rare occasion they are in possession on home turf.
Cardiff look to have turned a corner in recent weeks, but they have found goals hard to come by at home this term.
Top scorers Aden Flint and Rubin Colwill each have five league goals to their name, while the former has hit the back of the net once since August despite playing more minutes (2998) than any other Cardiff player.
As such, a return of 21 home goals scored is the fourth fewest in the Championship this season.