Everton will look to halt a run of three successive league defeats when they visit Cardiff City on Tuesday evening.
The Bluebirds, who were beaten 1-0 at Goodison Park in November, are hoping to avoid an immediate return to the Championship and currently sit 17th, one point and a place above the relegation zone.
Having won successive matches against Bournemouth and Southampton, Neil Warnock’s side suffered a chastening 5-1 home defeat to Watford on Friday night.
RBM: Firstly, how proud are you of Cardiff in the way they have dealt with the tragic passing of Emiliano Sala and disappearance of pilot David Ibbotson? From the outside, it seems Warnock and chief executive Ken Choo in particular have handled this with great class.
Jamie: It’s no surprise that the club have dealt with the situation with such class. This is a club in a tremendous place off the pitch, backed with supporters who would do anything for the club at the moment - that’s a powerful thing.
Neil and the board have been excellent in how they’ve dealt with the situation, even after with all this talk of delaying the transfer fee. They’ve risen above it. The football club is a business and it still has to go through procedures, even if the circumstances are horrid.
The fans will sleep easy knowing the right thing will be done when the time comes and if everything checks out.
RBM: After showing great character in their recent wins over Bournemouth and Southampton, how damaging a blow do you think the Watford defeat could be on Cardiff mentally?
Jamie: It will have been tough to take, especially given the penalty decision that completely changed the game. However, Watford are a very good team and this City team are very good at wiping bad days clean from their memory.
They have bouncing back in their DNA, as they showed in the promotion race last season, and they’ll move on quickly, especially with another home game coming around so quickly.
RBM: With 11 games to go, how do you rate Cardiff’s chances of staying up?
Jamie: Rather highly, or at least as much as one can in the current situation. It’s between Cardiff, Brighton & Hove Albion and Southampton now, for me, and I think Cardiff have the character required to get out.
They still have enough winnable games to survive, and they have impressed on the pitch in recent weeks - Watford game aside. If they lose on Tuesday, I might be a little more concerned, but as things stand, with their home form, they have a real shot.
RBM: As an Everton loanee, Oumar Niasse will be ineligible for Tuesday’s game, but has been a Cardiff regular since joining in January. How do you think the striker has done so far?
Jamie: He’s done pretty well, especially considering he’d hardly kicked a ball when arriving. He’s offered some much-needed experience up top. He’s strong and gives midfielders and wingers the time to get up and support him. A solid start to his Cardiff career/season.
RBM: What is the best way you think Everton can hurt Cardiff?
Jamie: Everton aren’t going to win much in the air against this Cardiff side, nor are they going to ‘want it’ more.
If this becomes a scrappy game as Cardiff like it, Everton are unlikely to leave with all three points. Teams who have beaten Cardiff this season, barring the off-days, have done so by playing quick, precise football.
Cardiff can’t match teams who play at a certain standard, and that’s no surprise given the squad they came up with and the lack of budget coming into this season.
RBM: How do you expect Cardiff to set up on Tuesday? Is a home game against an out-of-form Everton side with little to play for the sort of match they have to go all out to win?
Jamie: They’ll set up as they usually do. There won’t be any exceptions made. It’ll be two wingers, one striker, a deep midfielder and two regular midfielders. A 4-1-4-1 if you like, or a 4-5-1 to put it in simple terms.
They won’t go all out to win, but they will be hard to beat and there’ll be an emphasis on getting a winner. They know they need points here.
RBM: Who do you think could cause Everton the most problems?
Jamie: I haven’t watched too much of Everton this season, I have to admit, but set-pieces could be an issue for the Toffees. Cardiff, with the likes of Sol Bamba, Sean Morrison and others are very strong on set-pieces, especially with long throw-ins also being used to wear down opposing defenders.
Other than that, Josh Murphy can be a real handful out wide. He’s one to look out for.
RBM: Finally, what’s your prediction for the match?
Jamie: Cardiff have been strong at home and given Everton’s recent form, I quite fancy a home win. A draw seems sensible, but what’s football without optimism? 1-0 Cardiff.
Our thanks to Jamie for his time.