Club historian Rick Glanvill and club statistician Paul Dutton provide the final section of their final preview of the season…
WE HAVE HISTORY
Last weekend Cardiff City’s relegation from English football’s upper tier was confirmed, their first since 1961/62 – when they were accompanied by Chelsea. Tommy Docherty’s side roared back the following season while the Bluebirds’ return took 51 years.
The Blues’ biggest away win over the Welsh side was in March 1977, and is also one of the most memorable away trips during another of the team’s triumphant marches back to the top flight under Eddie McCreadie.
The Scots manager had cleverly blended together a squad of veterans and novices that hit the top of Division Two in late September and stayed there. Front-running for so long was taking its toll, though, and by the time the journey across the Severn arrived the Blues were staring at one win since the turn of the year.
At 35, Peter Bonetti was keeping goal for the first time in that worrying run, and made one or two brilliant and perfectly timed saves. The hosts scented blood as Chelsea started doggedly but uninspired, and centre-back Steve Wicks also executed a brilliant last-gasp tackle on City’s top scorer, Evans.
Those timely interventions encouraged a much better second-half showing, with midfielders Ray Lewington and Garry Stanley taking the game to the Welsh side and, vitally, helping break the deadlock through Ian Britton on the hour mark.
Cardiff’s attempts to hit back left them more open and a through-ball defeated their offside trap, allowing Kenny Swain to make it two.
The hosts pulled one back when Dwyer headed a cross that finally eluded the Cat, but Stanley scored the goal he deserved in the last minute to make it 3-1. The victory was as crucial psychologically as it was for the two points and, despite a few hiccups, the Blues were celebrating promotion in May.
This weekend Cardiff host Chelsea in the league for the first time in 30 years. The last occasion was in our 1983/84 promotion campaign in the old Second Division. Cardiff were 3-0 ahead after 25 minutes and Chelsea scored three goals in the last 14 minutes to secure a valuable point (pictured below).
The teams for that match at Ninian Park on 31 March 1984 were:
Cardiff Andy Dibble, Karl Elsey, David Grant, Phil Dwyer, Colin Smith, David Tong, Gordon Owen, Roger Gibbins, Nigel Vaughan, Jeff Hammerman (Martin Goldsmith), Trevor Lee.
Manager Jimmy Goodfellow
Scorers Gibbins 18, Owen 22 pen, Vaughan 25
Chelsea Eddie Niedzwiecki, Colin Lee, Joey Jones, Colin Pates, Dale Jasper, Tony McAndrew (John Bumstead 78), Pat Nevin, Nigel Spackman, Kerry Dixon, David Speedie, Micky Thomas.
Manager John Neal
Scorers Dixon 84, Lee 85, Spackman 90 pen
We have played at Ninian Park once since then, in the third round of the League Cup in October 1986, with the Bluebirds running out 2-1 winners.
Our last win there was in the old Second Division on 5 September 1981. Having conceded in the first minute to a Peter Kitchen strike, Alan Mayes scored a brace to secure the three points.
Cardiff were the winners the teams last met at Ninian Park in the top flight 53 years ago.
We have only recorded one win in our previous 10 top-flight meetings at Cardiff. The Bluebirds have won four and there have been five draws.
Our last 10 away meetings at Cardiff (Ninian Park)
1960/61 – Cardiff won 2-1 – Old Division One
1961/62 – Cardiff won 5-2 – Old Division One
1962/63 – Cardiff won 1-0 – Old Division Two
1976/77 – Chelsea won 3-1 – Old Division Two
1979/80 – Chelsea won 2-1 – Old Division Two
1980/81 – Cardiff won 1-0 – League Cup
1980/81 – Chelsea won 1-0 – Old Division Two
1981/82 – Chelsea won 2-1 – Old Division Two
1983/84 – Drew 3-3 – Old Division Two
1986/87 – Cardiff won 2-1 – League Cup
The reverse fixture this season
19 October 2013 Barclays Premier League
Hazard 32, 82 Mutch 10
Chelsea v Cardiff in all competitions
Games played 42
Chelsea wins 17
Cardiff wins 15
Head to head in the League at Cardiff
Games played 17
Chelsea wins 5
Cardiff wins 6
Biggest league win at Cardiff for each team
Cardiff 6-1 Chelsea – 10/03/1923
Cardiff 1-3 Chelsea – 12/03/1977
Chelsea played Cardiff away in the top flight: 19,240
Cardiff beat Chelsea in a league game: 12,090
Arsenal won a trophy: 3,277
Liverpool won the league: 8,772
With many Chelsea youngsters involved in the Premier League Under-21 play-off final three days later, or called up for England duty, Jose Mourinho is likely to field a side similar to the one that drew at home to Norwich last weekend.
Midfielder Ramires remains suspended, Oscar may still need time to recover from a hip injury and Petr Cech has successfully undergone surgery on his dislocated shoulder that will rule him out for eight to 10 weeks. Tomas Kalas, who so impressed in the brilliant win at Anfield, may see some action.
For the hosts, highly rated winger Mats Moller Daehli, right-back Kevin Theophile Catherine, and defensive midfielder Gary Medel should have recovered from the virus that swept through their squad last weekend. Craig Noone remains doubtful with a groin strain.
Cardiff manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer managed back-to-back Tippeligaen titles in Norway but has not yet made his mark in the English game on the bench as he once did coming off it.
Throughout his coaching career, the former striker has favoured attacking full-backs, whether in a 4-3-3 formation with wide forwards, a 4-1-4-1 with wingers or 5-3-2 with three central defenders – as used, fatefully, in the 6-3 home drubbing by Liverpool.
His key successes to date have come with the 4-1-4-1 line-up, Kenwyne Jones or Fraizer Campbell roaming alone upfront, with Bo-Kyung Kim and Peter Whittingham and Jordon Mutch tucked in behind. He likes to tweak his formations and move players around during matches.
With combative Medel (pictured below) as holding midfielder, the set-up is intended to allow the wingers and full-backs to overload wide areas. The brightness of Wilfried Zaha was instrumental in carving out one or two good goalscoring opportunities early on.
Solskjaer is said to have a precise attention to detail, and was note-taking while still a player, aiming for self-improvement. If so he must be scribbling furiously at his team’s failure at the basics of defending: failing to stay tight to a man or close down, block crosses and clear danger decisively.
Those are weaknesses Chelsea’s attacking midfielders – which may include the Brazil-bound Eden Hazard, Willian and Andre Schurrle – should be ready to exploit right up to the final whistle. The Bluebirds have conceded 26 goals in the last quarter-of-an-hour of matches, 19 more than they have scored in that tine and 12 more than they have let in during any other 15-minute period.
Arguably, the least guilty player has been David Marshall, whose excellent goalkeeping kept Cardiff competitive much of the season. However he will be wary of Samuel Eto’o should he play – the Cameroonian nipped in and stole the ball off him to set up Eden Hazard’s equaliser at the Bridge.
A lapse by David Luiz had allowed Mutch to open the scoring against the run of play for Malky Mackay’s team. Eto’o, Oscar and Hazard, again, completed the Chelsea win.
The atmosphere in the stadium on Sunday may influence proceedings. Professional players who are playing for their futures – either at Cardiff or elsewhere, and even in a World Cup year – should want to bow out on a high. The mood of a disgruntled home crowd is harder to read.
Older Chelsea supporters who experienced relegation will may remember the sense of apathy that can overtake games such as this on and off the field. A first strike for the Londoners could make a big difference to the outcome – Cardiff have lost fewer points from winning positions than the Blues.