Cardiff City were relegated from the Premier League on Saturday after a 3-2 defeat at the hands of Crystal Palace.
From a Fantasy perspective, the Bluebirds are still at the forefront of our thoughts as Manchester United take on Neil Warnock’s side in Gameweek 38.
The Red Devils were well backed going into their final two matches of 2018/19, with Paul Pogba (£8.5m) and Luke Shaw (£5.1m) among the five most-bought Fantasy Premier League players of Gameweek 37.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s troops disappointed against Huddersfield Town on Sunday, however, leaving their Fantasy assets with plenty of salvage work to be done in their final-day home fixture against Cardiff next weekend.
We assess the Bluebirds’ performance on Saturday below and study Palace’s latest away-day success.
Cardiff City 2-3 Crystal Palace
- Goals: Martin Kelly (£3.9m) own-goal, Bobby Reid (£5.2m) | Wilfried Zaha (£6.9m), Michy Batshuayi (£6.2m), Andros Townsend (£5.6m)
- Assists: Leandro Bacuna (£4.3m), Nathaniel Mendez-Laing (£4.8m) | Andros Townsend, Jordan Ayew (£5.7m), James McArthur (£4.8m)
- Bonus: Andros Townsend – 3, Bobby Reid – 2, Wilfried Zaha – 1
The ‘must-win’ status of Cardiff’s final home match of 2018/19 led to a fairly predictable outcome, with away-day specialists Crystal Palace picking off their hosts on the break and condemning the Bluebirds to the drop.
With relegation confirmed and nothing riding on the final-day dead rubber at Old Trafford, there is no longer a need for Neil Warnock’s side to go for the jugular against Manchester United next Sunday.
This might be Warnock’s swansong as a Premier League manager, however, and the veteran Cardiff boss is unlikely to want to bow out with a whimper.
Speaking in his post-match press conference (and before United’s top-four hopes were dashed), Warnock said:
There’s the little matter of going to Old Trafford next week. Now I want them to have a chance to get in the top four because that gives us the opportunity to spoil the party!
Should their performance against Palace be replicated, there will likely be chances at both ends.
There were 39 attempts on goal in total at the Cardiff City Stadium on Saturday, 14 of which were on target and 27 of which were from inside the opposition box.
Cardiff had 18 of those shots but it was a familiar story in South Wales as chance after chance went begging.
Bobby Reid (£5.2m) curled in a fine consolation just before full-time but there had been some profligate finishing before then, with Josh Murphy (£4.8m), Kenneth Zohore (£4.6m) and Junior Hoilett (£5.0m) spurning presentable opportunities (all of which were deemed ‘big chances’ by Opta).
Murphy also struck the post with an effort from distance but it was only through a clanger from Martin Kelly (£3.9m) that Cardiff first hit the back of the net, with the Palace defender turning a Leandro Bacuna (£4.3m) cross past his own goalkeeper.
Warnock bemoaned his lack of a goalscorer after full-time, saying:
You could see the limitations. We haven’t had a goalscorer. You’ve seen the chances we’ve had today, there were ten in the second half.
Cardiff are the second-lowest scorers in the Premier League this season, which potentially bodes well for a United clean sheet – although the Red Devils were breached on Sunday by the division’s lowest-scoring team, Huddersfield Town, and are without a shut-out since Gameweek 27.
United’s attacking assets also flattered to deceive at the John Smith’s Stadium but they will have a second bite at the cherry against Cardiff, who have lost all 11 of their matches against ‘big six’ opposition this season and conceded 33 goals in the process.
Huddersfield, of course, had a similar record against the top half-dozen clubs going into Gameweek 37.
Victor Camarasa (£4.4m) may be missing in Gameweek 38 to further dent Cardiff’s ability to convert their chances, with the influential Spaniard – and the Bluebirds’ joint-top goalscorer – being substituted with an injury after just ten minutes.
There has been no update on the on-loan Betis midfielder’s condition so far.
Palace registered their ninth away win of 2018/19 as they condemned Cardiff to the drop.
Wilfried Zaha (£6.9m) delivered his 14th attacking return this season away from home but Saturday saw the Ivory Coast international re-deployed as a winger in a 4-4-2.
Andros Townsend (£5.6m) was recalled on the opposite flank, with Jordan Ayew (£5.7m) and Michy Batshuayi (£6.2m) leading the line in the absence of the injured Christian Benteke (£6.3m).
All four of those players registered at least one attacking return in Wales, with Zaha discussing the tactical tweak after full-time:
I am out wide, and that is okay with me. Me, Michy, Jordan and Andros, we understand each other, and it just made sense; it worked well us four together.
The move from centre-forward to left-winger didn’t particularly affect Zaha’s output, with only Batshuayi registering more penalty box touches than the Ivorian in South Wales.
Zaha rifled low past Neil Etheridge (£4.6m) for Palace’s opener, with Batshuayi firing in from close range and Townsend adding an excellent third from distance.
Batshuayi was also denied twice from point-blank range by the Cardiff goalkeeper and Roy Hodgson hailed his side’s attacking display after full-time.
The Palace boss said:
A clinical performance and extremely good play as well. It was an exciting game as well, although I thought we spurned quite a few chances which the quality of our play had managed to produce.
I have got to say that over the 90 minutes, our performance, our creation of really good goalscoring opportunities, and the way we went about our business as well [was really good].
We knew they’d be giving us nothing and that we’d have to work hard and fight for every opportunity to come our way. I must congratulate the players for that because I thought we matched them very much in that area as well as showing the necessary quality when we were on the ball.
Zaha, Townsend, Ayew and Batshuayi had 16 efforts between them on Saturday and there may be modest interest from Fantasy managers in Palace’s excellent wingers in particular after Saturday’s display.
Concern remains about the Eagles’ ability to replicate their away-day results at Selhurst Park, though, with Hodgson’s side second-bottom of the Premier League table based on home form.
Only Huddersfield have scored fewer home league goals than Palace (14) this season, with Zaha’s FPL returns in south London amounting to one goal and three assists.
The visit of a Bournemouth side that has lost ten of their last 13 away matches at least offers hope, with the Cherries having conceded 40 goals on the road in 2018/19 – only Huddersfield and Fulham have shipped more.
There will perhaps be encouragement for owners of Callum Wilson (£6.8m) et al, with Palace – still without key centre-halves James Tomkins (£4.3m) and Mamadou Sakho (£4.9m) through injury – allowing Cardiff 14 shots from inside their own area on Saturday, including those three aforementioned (and unconverted) big chances.
Cardiff City XI (4-4-2): Etheridge; Peltier, Morrison, Manga, Bennett; Mendez-Laing, Gunnarsson, Camarasa (Bacuna 11′), J Murphy (Hoilett 80′); Ward (Zohore 60′), Reid
Crystal Palace XI (4-4-2): Guaita; Wan-Bissaka, Dann, Kelly, Ward; Townsend (Kouyate 84′), Milivojevic, McArthur, Zaha; Ayew (Meyer 78′), Batshuayi (Sako 73′).