MX23RW : Monday, September 20 13:27:18| >> :600:159371:159371:
Jul 27, 2020 at 7.45pm UK at Cardiff City Stadium
CardiffCardiff City

Hoilett (45'), Bacuna (77')
FT(HT: 0-0)
Onomah (49'), Kebano (90+1')

Preview: Cardiff City vs. Fulham - prediction, team news, lineups

Sports Mole previews Monday's Championship playoff semi-final first leg between Cardiff City and Fulham, including team news and predicted lineups.

Two sides looking to make an immediate return to the Premier League will lock horns on Monday as Cardiff City and Fulham meet for the first leg of their Championship playoff semi-final at the Cardiff City Stadium.

Eight points separated the two sides at the end of the regular season, with Fulham finishing fourth and Cardiff securing fifth spot on the final day.

Match preview

Cardiff's Nathaniel Mendez-Laing celebrates scoring against Preston on June 27, 2020© Reuters

Three successive wins from their final three matches in the second tier saw Cardiff secure a spot in the playoffs with minimal trouble as the Bluebirds endeavour to secure promotion straight back to the Premier League.

Neil Harris's men comfortably swept aside relegated Hull City 3-0 on the final day of the season and ought to feel optimistic about their chances of advancing to the final at Wembley.

Following the appointment of Harris after Neil Warnock left the club, Cardiff have gone from strength to strength in the Championship and have only tasted defeat three times on home soil all season.

The Bluebirds are heading into the playoffs in a strong spell of form - having enjoyed victories over Derby County and Middlesbrough before their final-day triumph over Hull - with champions Leeds United the only other team to bag nine points from their last three fixtures.

Cardiff are now aiming to reach the Championship playoff final for only the second time in the club's history, with Blackpool overcoming the Bluebirds 3-2 at Wembley ten years ago.

Fulham manager Scott Parker pictured on July 22, 2020© Reuters

Meanwhile, Fulham missed the chance to capitalise on Brentford's loss to Barnsley as they played out a 1-1 draw with Wigan Athletic in midweek.

Before a ball was kicked on the final day, Fulham were still in with a shout of automatic promotion as they sat two points behind second-placed West Bromwich Albion, but the standings ultimately remained the same as the Baggies drew with Queens Park Rangers and Fulham finished behind Brentford on goal difference.

Despite the off-the-field problems afflicting Wigan and their survival prospects, the Latics entered the game with Scott Parker's men in a good spell of form and Fulham were unable to claim maximum points in their 46th league game of the season.

Nevertheless, the Cottagers are entering the first leg of the semi-final on a seven-game unbeaten streak in the Championship - winning five of them - and Fulham will be looking for a repeat of their success in the 2017-18 campaign where they defeated Aston Villa 1-0 in the playoff final.

Fulham and Cardiff last met as recently as July 10, and it was the Cottagers who took the spoils in that fixture courtesy of goals from Aleksandar Mitrovic and Josh Onomah.

Cardiff Championship form: WLLWWW

Fulham Championship form: WWWDWD

Team News

Bobby Reid celebrates scoring for Fulham on December 29, 2019© Reuters

Cardiff boast a relatively clean bill of health before they welcome Fulham to the Welsh capital, with the only concerns for Harris being long-term absentees Isaac Vassell and Greg Cunningham.

There are not expected to be too many alterations to the side that enjoyed a routine victory over Hull, but Josh Murphy will be holding out for a recall on the right flank, although Danny Ward's goal against the Tigers will most likely not be enough to earn him a start.

As for Fulham, the Cottagers' only injury worry is the hamstring problem keeping Ivan Cavaleiro on the treatment table, with Parker otherwise having a fully-fit squad at his disposal.

Southampton loanee Harrison Reed has served a one-match suspension and is back in the fold for this one, meaning that Parker could be facing a selection dilemma in the middle of the park.

Reed will be hopeful of lining up alongside Tom Cairney in the Fulham midfield, while Bobby Reid is also in contention to feature behind Golden Boot winner Mitrovic.

Cardiff possible starting lineup:
Smithies; Bacuna, Morrison, Nelson, Bennett; Ralls, Pack; Murphy, Tomlin, Hoilett; Glatzel

Fulham possible starting lineup:
Rodak; Odoi, Hector, Ream, Bryan; Reed, Cairney; Knockaert, Reid, Kebano; Mitrovic

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We say: Cardiff City 2-2 Fulham

Both clubs enjoyed strong finishes to the regular season and will both be stepping out onto the pitch feeling capable of gaining the upper hand before next Thursday's second leg. However, we are struggling to pick a winner for this one and expect the two promotion hopefuls to play out a high-scoring draw in Monday's first leg.

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Fulham manager Scott Parker pictured on July 22, 2020
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