Good morning! Thank you very much for joining Sports Mole
for today's Premier League clash between Cardiff City
and Newcastle United
This contest sees two old foes renew acquaintances in the dugout, while it will also be Cardiff's first home game back in the top flight for four years.
It promises to be a special occasion in South Wales - and potentially an early-season six-pointer too - so let's waste no time in getting started with some team news...
CARDIFF STARTING XI: Etheridge; Bennett, Morrison, Manga, Bamba; Arter, Ralls, Camarasa, Hoilett, Murphy; Zohore
CARDIFF SUBS: Smithies, Richards, Paterson, Decordova-Reid, Cunningham, Mendez-Laing, Madine
NEWCASTLE STARTING XI:
Dubravka; Manquillo, Clark, Lascelles, Dummett; Diame, Shelvey, Ritchie, Kenedy
, Perez; Joselu
NEWCASTLE SUBS: Darlow, Fernandez, Hayden, Ki, Murphy, Muto, Rondon
What can we make of those two teams, then?
Well, the headline news from Cardiff's perspective is that summer signing Harry Arter makes his debut in midfielder, as expected. The loanee was ineligible for the opening game of the campaign against parent club Bournemouth last weekend, but does make his first appearance for the Bluebirds today.
There is more good news for the hosts in the form of Kenneth Zohore, who has passed a late fitness test and will lead the line for Cardiff tpday.
Zohore had been struggling with a groin injury having also missed the opener against Bournemouth, but he has now returned to fitness and Neil Warnock has had no hesitation in throwing him straight back into the starting lineup.
The is also a debut for Spanish summer signing Victor Camarasa, who is expected to play in the holding midfield role just behind Arter and Ralls.
At the back Ecuele Manga will operate on the right with Bennett on the left, allowing Sol Bamba to drop back into his favoured centre-back role alongside captain Morrison.
In all, Warnock has made four changes to his side from the opening day, with debutants Camarasa and Arter being joined in the starting XI by Zohore and Murphy.
The latter of those could end up facing his brother this afternoon, but Jacob only makes the bench for the Magpies so that sibling showdown will have to wait.
Two debutants for Cardiff, then, but Newcastle boss Rafael Benitez
keeps his new signings out of the side again this afternoon.
Martin Dubravka - who spent last season on loan at the club but has since joined on a permanent deal, is one of only two summer arrivals to be named in the starting lineup, alongside Kenedy, who also spent last season on loan at St James' Park.
A lot has been made of Newcastle transfer business - or lack thereof - but Benitez clearly trusts the players he had last season judging by the starting lineups of the opening two games of the new campaign.
Perhaps the most surprising absentee if Salomon Rondon, who once again has to make do with a place on the bench following his summer move from West Brom. The Venezuelan is expected to eventually be Newcastle's first-choice striker, but for now he must bide his time.
Credit must go to Joselu for keeping Rondon out of the team, with the Spaniard scoring against Tottenham on the opening day and once again earning a starting role this afternoon.
Having netted against Spurs, Joselu will be confident of doing the same against the more modest opponents of Cardiff today, and if he manages that then he will become the first Newcastle player to score in Newcastle's opening two Premier League games since Alan Shearer in 2003.
Muto, Ki and Fernandez are also among the new signings on the bench this afternoon, with manager Rafael Benitez
making only one change from the opening-day defeat to Tottenham.
That change is an enforced one too, with DeAndre Yedlin missing out with a minor knee injury and being replaced in the starting XI by Javier Manquillo.
Benitez has largely kept things the same, then, and that is something Cardiff are likely to do throughout the course of the season as Neil Warnock
looks to use all of his experience to emulate the heroics of last term.
Warnock is lacking experience in a crucial area, though, having never kept a side in the Premier League before. The veteran boss is a master at winning promotion - indeed no manager has managed it more often - but staying in the big time is even harder and it is a skill Warnock has not yet mastered.
One thing Warnock is good at doing is creating an underdog spirit, though, and that could be crucial to any chances of success for Cardiff this season as they look to defy the odds once again.
The Bluebirds are the overwhelming favourites to be relegated straight back to the Championship this season, and their task has certainly not been made any easier by the spending of fellow newly-promoted clubs Fulham and Wolves during the summer transfer window - something Cardiff simply cannot match.
If the Bluebirds do stay up this season then it would be a minor miracle from Warnock, who has already far exceeded expectations by steering them into the Premier League.
Cardiff were arguably fancied more for a relegation battle than a title tilt last season, but Warnock led the club to automatic promotion from the Championship, finishing second behind Wolves.
Things did not start too well for Cardiff on what is only their second ever season in the Premier League, though, as they fell to a 2-0 defeat away to Bournemouth in their opening match last weekend - the Cherries' first ever opening-day win in the Premier League.
Incidentally, Cardiff also lost their opening match 2-0 on their previous Premier League escapade in 2013-14, and on that occasion they bounced back to stun Manchester City at home in their second match. A similar result today would do very nicely!
Cardiff have not lost their opening two league games since 1994-95, when they went on to be relegated to the fourth tier, so they have a proud record to defend today in search of their first points of the new campaign.
At the same time, the fact that they were as low as the fourth tier as recently as that speaks volumes for the progress the club has made to be playing Premier League football today, so any struggles this season must be taken in context.
Home form is likely to be key for the Bluebirds this season. Warnock is expected to make his side difficult to beat in front of their own fans and, if they are to defy the odds and stay up this season, then it is likely to be their performances here which get them over the line.
Warnock certainly made it into something of a fortress towards the tail end of last season, winning eight of their 10 home games so far in 2018 - although they all came in the Championship.
The Premier League is a different kettle of fish entirely, and this will be Cardiff first-taste of top-flight football at this stadium since losing 2-1 to Chelsea on the final day of the 2013-14 season.
Cardiff only managed five home wins on their way to a rock-bottom finish on their last stint in the Premier League, which is something they simply must improve upon this time around. Today's game will hopefully give us a good idea about how they will fare in 2018-19.
Newcastle will certainly be wary of this match today, as a trip to a newly-promoted side for their first game back in the Premier League is always a banana skin for any team - as Man City discovered against Cardiff in 2013-14.
There are plenty of question marks lingering over the Magpies too, and while they achieved a top-half finish last season - much to Benitez's credit - some have tipped them to be battling against relegation again this season.
The Newcastle supporters adore Rafael Benitez and will always cheer on their team in huge numbers, but the focus of their ire remains on owner Mike Ashley, who once again drew criticism for the level of his transfer activity this summer.
It is a well-known gripe for Benitez has he hasn't had enough money to spend, and his frustrations cannot have been helped by the recent news that Mike Ashley bought House of Fraser for £90m either.
Just as we should learn a bit more about what to expect from Cardiff today, the same is true of Newcastle, who go into the campaign with their main priority being to avoid relegation once again.
The Magpies began their campaign with a difficult test against Tottenham Hotspur, but their survival will not be decided by games against the top six, which is why matches like this are so important for them to get results from.
Newcastle fell to a 2-1 defeat at the hands of Tottenham in that opener, but they held their own for long spells at St James' Park and, while the result was not satisfactory, Rafael Benitez will have seen plenty to encourage him during that game.
On paper, this should be an easier test for the Magpies, but there is always the factor of a home crowd spurring newly-promoted sides to perform above their usual level during the early stages of the season.
Newcastle did not end last season in great form, though, and including the opening weekend of this term they have now lost five of their last six Premier League.
The omens don't look particularly good for them to improve that record tonight either, with the Magpies having failed to win their opening away match in each of the past five Premier League campaigns, losing four of those since a 1-0 win over arch-rivals Sunderland in 2011.
Rafael Benitez has also lost all three away games at newly-promoted Premier League sides during his time as Newcastle manager, so for all his tactical astuteness, the Spaniard does struggle with the challenge of momentum behind a raucuous home crowd.
The Magpies also arrive in South Wales having lost their last three away league games, and another defeat this afternoon would see them lose four in a row for the first time under Benitez.
This match also sees Benitez renew his rivalry with Neil Warnock, although the relationship between the pair appears to have thawed since it kicked off in 2007, with Warnock speaking in glowing terms about his opposite number in the buildup to this contest.
The initial feud began when Benitez fielded a second-string side against Fulham in 2007, leading to a 1-0 defeat which had a hand in seeing Sheffield United relegated on the final day of the season.
Right, we're 10 minutes away from kickoff at the Cardiff City Stadium, which means that it is time for a prediction!
The unknown quantity of how Cardiff will perform on their first home game back in the Premier League makes this one a little more difficult to call, but they are likely to be hard to break down. Newcastle have the better team on paper, but I'm going for a score draw today.
SPORTS MOLE SAYS: Cardiff 1-1 Newcastle
Newcastle are something of a bogey team for Cardiff, with the Bluebirds having lost each of their last 10 league meetings against the Magpies - their longest ever losing streak against a single opponent.
By the same token, Newcastle's run of 10 successive league wins against Cardiff is their longest winning run against a single opponent in their history.
You have to go back to February 1981 for Cardiff's last league victory against Newcastle, with Peter Kitchen's strike handing the Bluebirds a 1-0 win in the old second division (and no doubt providing a dream for headline writers).
However, Cardiff have beaten Newcastle as recently as 2014 in the FA Cup, running out 2-1 winners on that occasion.
Neil Warnock also has a poor record against Newcastle, having lost seven and won none of his last nine meeting with the Magpies in this managerial career - stretching back to a 1-0 win with Sheffield United in November 2006.
Benitez, meanwhile, has never lost against Warnock in five previous meetings across all competitions, winning each of the last four following a 1-1 draw on the opening day of the 2006-07 Premier League season.
Right, the players are out and we're almost ready to go now - let's have a quick reminder of the team news before we do get started...
CARDIFF STARTING XI: Etheridge; Bennett, Morrison, Manga, Bamba; Arter, Ralls, Camarasa, Hoilett, Murphy; Zohore
NEWCASTLE STARTING XI: Dubravka; Manquillo, Clark, Lascelles, Dummett; Diame, Shelvey, Ritchie, Kenedy, Perez; Joselu
KICKOFF: Here we go, then! We're underway in South Wales!
The home fans are making plenty of noise here, and Shelvey is on the end of vociferous jeers due to his Swansea past.
Cardiff win an early free kick in a good crossing position, but Diame is well placed to head the ball away. It was delivered into a decent area, but there were no blue shirts in the vicinity.
YELLOW CARD! Ritchie picks up an early yellow card following a heavy collision with Hoilett, although the replay suggests it was actually a Cardiff teammate who made the biggest contact.
Hoilett certainly felt that one - he stays down for a while and needs treatment, but it looks as though he will try to carry on. He is not moving entirely freely at the moment, though.
Cardiff win another free kick in a crossing position and the ball is allowed to bounce in the box before Dubravka collects it. Not entirely convincing defending from Newcastle, but Cardiff need to do more from those set pieces too.
SAVE! Good play from Kenedy as he collects Shelvey's pass before creating space to shoot, drilling a low strike towards goal from just outside the area. It is straight at Etheridge, though, and the keeper collects it at the second attempt after spilling the first effort.
CHANCE! Big chance for Cardiff to take the lead as Newcastle concede another set piece! The corner is swung into the area and Bamba is unmarked in the middle, but he doesn't get enough power on his header and Perez blocks it before it can test the keeper.
CHANCE! Newcastle respond with a chance of their own as Bennett fails to deal with the danger and allows Perez to steal possession off him and race through. The angle is against the Spaniard, though, and Etheridge makes the save.
This game has started at a really good tempo and Newcastle are beginning to threaten now. It feels like there are goals in this one.
Better from Cardiff now - they have quelled the growing Newcastle momentum and do not look quite as vulnerable at the moment,
A stat has just popped up to show that Cardiff have played 48% of their passes long so far today, compared to Newcastle's 22%, No change in their playing style from last season, then.
Good move from Cardiff as they come forward down the left channel, with Murphy exchanging passes with Zohore to send the latter into the box. The striker tries to pick out Hoilett in the middle, but his low cross is blocked and bounces into the arms of Dubravka.
After a bright start this one has just become a little untidy and scrappy in the last few minutes. The vast majority of the game is being played out in the middle third right now.
Bennett does really well to track the overlapping run of Ritchie, timing his challenge to perfection to prevent the winger from getting a cross into the box.
Shelvey really is the pantomime villain today - the Cardiff fans are now chanting that Harry Potter is coming for the *alleged* Lord Voldemort lookalike (I have to say that for legal reasons).
We're approaching the half-hour mark in this match now and the chances have really dried up in the last 10 minutes or so. Neither side is looking particularly threatening right now.
Newcastle come sweeping forward and Ritchie collects the ball in a promising position with options in front of him, but his pass is poor and a good attacking platform goes begging.
YELLOW CARD! Manquillo becomes the second Newcastle player in the book today for a double foul on Murphy.
SHOT! Murphy tries to catch Dubravka out by going for goal from the free kick, but he gets it all wrong and fires it well off target.
This is blood and thunder stuff right now, and Kenedy is very fortunate not to see red here for a kick out at a Cardiff man. The Newcastle loanee was on the end of a heavy challenge from Arter and then took his instant revenge on Camarasa, but the referee opts not to take any further action.
Kenedy really has got away with one there - the more I see it, the more it is a straight red card. Craig Pawson was right there too, so it is difficult to see how he could have missed that.
Neil Warnock will be fairly pleased with what he has seen from his side in this first half, but they need to create more from open play if they are to survive this season. So far they are relying on set pieces.
CHANCE! Cardiff do create a chance from open play here as Bennett lifts the ball into the area which Zohore attacks well. He cannot get enough on his header, though, glancing it wide of the target.
CHANCE! Shelvey swings a beauty of a cross from deep into the box, where Perez has peeled away from his marker. The striker cushions a volley towards goal, but Etheridge is out quickly and spreads himself well to make an important stop.
Cardiff should be looking to get the ball to Murphy at every available opportunity - he has the beating of Manquillo and the Newcastle full-back is already on a yellow card.
Another interesting stat has just popped up - Kenedy is yet to complete a single successful pass in this game. He has had one decent effort on goal, but aside from that has not been effective enough and is fortunate to even be on the pitch.
SAVE! Shelvey takes on the free kick duties and curls an effort towards goal, but it is central and easy enough for the keeper to gather.
There will be one minute of added time at the end of this first half.
We will have longer than that one minute, though, as Manquillo needs treatment for an ankle injury. It looks like he will last until at least half time, though.
Bennett swings the corner towards Bamba once again, but Dummett does really well to prevent the defender from getting his head on it from close range.
HALF TIME: CARDIFF 0-0 NEWCASTLE
The first half comes to an end at the Cardiff City Stadium, then, and it is still goalless between the hosts and Newcastle in South Wales.
The match began quickly but fizzled out as the half wore on, with Newcastle struggling to get going against the newly-promoted outfit. The Magpies have still had the most chances, but Benitez will demand improvement from his side.
Ayoze Perez has looked the most like scoring for the visitors, seeing two attempts well saved by Etheridge, who made himself big to deny the Spaniard.
Kenedy has also been denied by the Cardiff keeper, although the loanee should have been sent off later in the half for a kick out and failed to complete a single successful pass in that opening 45 minutes.
The best chance of the first half arguably fell to Cardiff, when Sol Bamba was left unmarked from a corner but saw his tame header blocked by Perez before it could test Dubravka.
The hosts have largely relied upon set pieces to conjure up chances, although Zohore also squandered another sight of goal from open play - one of precious few chances Cardiff have been able to create.
Neil Warnock will certainly be the happier of the two managers at the halfway stage of this match, but Cardiff will need to create more than they have if they are to get enough points to stay in the division this season.
There may also be the worry from the hosts that Newcastle will up their game in the second half, and Benitez will certainly be demanding they do so during the interval.
Cardiff get us back underway for the second half, and the first thing to tell you is that the visitors have made a change, with Isaac Hayden
replacing the booked Manquillo.
Concern for Arter here after a clash of heads with former Bournemouth teammate Matt Ritchie. The Cardiff medical staff are taking no risks, but it looks as though the midfielder will be allowed to continue.
Hoilett takes advantage of some sloppy Newcastle defending to break forward before going for goal from just outside the area, but his effort is blocked by Lascelles.
...and he is fortunate not to have seen a red card. Not a great half from Kenedy.
CHANCE! Big chance for Cardiff to take the lead! A cross arrives from the right flank and there is space in the Newcastle box for Zohore to get on the end of it. He gets his header all wrong, though, steering it well wide when he should have done a lot better.
It can't be too much longer before Benitez turns to his bench. Rondon looks readymade for this game - he is strong, physical and can hold the ball up well.
Cardiff have already had more shots in this half than they had in the whole of the first half, so they have certainly upped the tempo since the interval.
Cardiff are very much on top at the moment - the fans are getting behind them and they are keeping Newcastle pinned back into their own half. It is the hosts who look most like breaking the deadlock right now!
YELLOW CARD! Camarasa picks up a yellow card on his debut for a cynical tug to prevent a counter-attack.
Important defensive work from Shelvey as he slides in and puts the ball over his own crossbar to cut out Zohore's low cross from the right channel.
NEWCASTLE SUB: Well, we were expecting Rondon, but Benitez instead turns to Yoshinori Muto as his attacking option from the bench. He replaces Perez.
RED CARD! Isaac Hayden (Newcastle)
The substitute is off! Hayden comes sliding in from behind on Murphy and it is by no means a good challenge, but neither should it be a red card. A yellow would have more than sufficed, and for the second time in two games this season Craig Pawson finds himself at the centre of a debate over a controversial red card.
The studs were raised from Hayden and it was a fairly high challenge, but it wasn't particularly aggressive and there wasn't a great deal of contact from the Newcastle man either. Poor decision from the referee.
NEWCASTLE SUB: Benitez makes a change in the wake of that as Jacob Murphy joins his twin Josh on the field, replacing Ritchie.
That red card actually appears to have injected some life into Newcastle, which is what they needed. This is a real chance for Cardiff to push on and pick up a crucial Premier League victory now though 0 they may not get many better opportunities this term.
SHOT! Arter looks to inspire Cardiff with a long-range drive which has Dubravka worried, but swings wide of the target.
CARDIFF SUB: The hosts make a change as Bobby Reid replaces Camarasa. An attacking switch from Warnock!
CARDIFF SUB: The Murphy sibling showdown does not last long - Josh is replaced by Nathaniel Mendez-Laing.
YELLOW CARD! Arter is the latest in the book for a scything challenge on Joselu to prevent a counter. That was a naughty challenge from Arter and Shelvey is asking why that wasn't a red card when Hayden's was. He has a point too.
Here is that red-card challenge for Hayden. It is soft for me, but makes your own minds up...
CARDIFF SUB: The hosts are forced into another change here as Hoilett is replaced by Callum Paterson.
Pressure arriving from Newcastle now as Shelvey sees a corner cleared, but them picks the ball back up, cuts inside and sees his subsequent effort blocked behind for another corner.
It is Newcastle who are looking the most likely to get a winning at the moment. This is very finely poised, but Cardiff really need to make more of this situation. This would be two points dropped for them.
OFF THE LINE! Cardiff's best hope still looks to be set pieces, and that avenue creates another chance here. Paterson climbs highest in the box to meet a corner which deflects into the path of Zohore, but he cannot generate the power to beat the man on the line with the ball arriving to him at an awkward height. Moments later Zohore has another sight of goal, but he once again gets it all wrong.
Potentially a chance for Newcastle to steal all three points here - they have a free kick in a very promising position...
What a waste. Kenedy is given the free kick duties ahead of Shelvey, but he fires it into the foot of the wall. Dreadful effort, and it caps off a pretty woeful game from Kenedy.
There is still time for Cardiff - the fourth official indicates a minimum of SIX added minutes!
Good footwork from Mendez-Laing to reach the byline down the right channel, but his subsequent cross is overhit and comes to nothing.
PENALTY! Newcastle have a penalty! Morrison slid in to block a cross and the ball struck his hand right on the edge of the area! Newcastle have the chance to win it in the 95th minute!
PENALTY! SAVED! KENEDY MISSES!
A miserable afternoon by Kenedy is compounded as he sees his spot kick saved by Etheridge in the final minute!
FULL TIME: CARDIFF 0-0 NEWCASTLE
What a horror show from Kenedy! He should have been sent off, didn't complete a single pass in the first half and then misses a penalty with the last kick of the game!
It ends goalless in South Wales, which means a first point of the season for both Cardiff and Newcastle, but both sides will see this as two points dropped. Newcastle were down to 10 men from the 66th minute, but could have nicked all three points with that late penalty.
Right, that is all we have time for this afternoon!
Thank you very much for joining Sports Mole for today's early Premier League kickoff as 10-man Newcastle miss the chance to seal all three points from a goalless draw with Cardiff. I will leave your with our match report, and be sure to stick around for reaction too.
From me, though, it is goodbye for now!