Everton at Cardiff City: Match Preview

Jamie McDonald

It's always tough visiting Premier League new boys early on in the season, but can we take our first three points of the season?

Overview

After being overly confident that we'd score last week - we all know what actually happened, we didn't - I'll stick to conjecture this week! Cardiff City pulled off one of those results that happens at this time of year, with their victory over Manchester City last week. What that result meant is that they're above Everton in the table, nothing to worry about after two games but you'd have hoped we'd have a Premier League win under our belts by now. Two draws against mid table teams isn't a disaster by any means but as "the RBM article" earlier this week showing the lack of adherence to our new game plan was disappointing. What this might mean is that we're a more dangerous team on the road where the groaning from the crowd won't play on minds as much. The annual League Cup Second Round struggle has been overcome this year, although with extra time, but this shouldn't impact too much on the team against Cardiff due to the number of changes in the cup game.

The Opposition

The Bluebirds had a terrific result last weekend against a strong and confident Manchester City, this after a soporific performance in the opening day defeat by West Ham United. So which version will turn up at Cardiff City Stadium? Manager Malky MacKay was on some shortlists to replace David Moyes earlier this summer, and his pragmatic view of the game has similarities to his fellow Scotsman. After spending ambitiously, and slightly riskily, in the summer they have a fighting chance for survival. Signing Steven Caulker from Tottenham Hotspur was a coup, and the signing of Danish frontman Andreas Cornelius for a hefty fee was also a show of ambition. The downside is that they still have the core of the team that got them promoted, and while promotion was gained easily there's a dearth of real Premier league talent in the squad, Craig Bellamy aside.

Team News

Early signs are that Everton will have an almost full squad to choose from, with a starting line up very similar to that of the the first two games. The only change might see Arouna Kone replace Nikica Jelavic, and there is the outside possibility of Gerard Deulofeu starting and Darron Gibson appearing on the bench.

For Cardiff, Cornelius is out after tweaking an ankle in their Cup game, meaning more pressure on Frazier Campbell's shoulders to lead the line.

Keys To The Game

A sign of progress is what Evertonians are looking for, and we should be capable of dominating teams like Cardiff, even away from home. One of the key battles will be between England hopeful centre back Caulker and whichever of Kone and Jelavic gets the nod to lead our attack. Before the Stevenage game you would have expected Kone to get his chance but a spineless striking performance there has highlighted the ever present challenge for the Blues - getting the most out of frontmen. I would prefer to see the pace and movement of Kone up against Caulker, whose size means he is stronger against static players. Also, Kone's work ethic from the front is likely to lead to more mistakes from Caulker who had a pass completion of 58% against City last weekend, not the most comfortable on the ball.
Another decisive area of the pitch is in the centre of the park, how well Fellaini matches up against the Cardiff hardman Guy Medel. Both had similar passing stats (85% vs 82%) and were involved in a high number of tackles, more successfully for Felli who won 5 out of 5.

Stats

Everton have:

- taken the most shots per game in the opening two games of the season (21)

- the second highest average % of possession (64.7%)

- the third highest pass success rate (85.7%)

- conceded the second fewest shots per game (7.5)

Cardiff have:

- conceded the fewest fouls so far this season (4.5 per game)

- the third worst possession percentage (43.2%)

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