Stage set for a hero as Cardiff face must-win game against Stoke

It is, for the final time, do or die for the Bluebirds in their Premier League survival bid.

Think what you may about the Cardiff City team-leak saga, the performance in the 3-0 loss to Crystal Palace two weeks ago was nothing short of a shambles.

Even if the opposition had somehow obtained their full starting line-up for the game a week in advance, there was no excuse for that showing on home turf.

The Bluebirds would now be level on points with Norwich City in 18th in the Premier League had they won that game, and with the Canaries much talked about run-in to the end of the season, it highlights what a missed opportunity it was against Palace.

But somehow, Cardiff are not out of it yet.

Fulham recorded back-to-back wins with victory over Norwich last week, as West Brom also took a point against Tottenham. If we had have all known that at 3.00pm last Saturday, we would have all agreed Cardiff were gone once and for all.

As it was, the Bluebirds churned out one of the results of the weekend with a 1-0 away win at Southampton. Juan Cala's strike after 65 minutes gave Cardiff unthinkable hope in a relegation battle, where survival looked about as likely as Vincent Tan reverting the home strip back to blue.

It was a nervy 25-minute wait for that result to come through, not least when you are only receiving updates every five minutes from another Premier League press box. But City held on, and have given them a chance to revive that dismal display against Crystal Palace against Stoke today. It is another no excuses, must-win game.

Stoke possess threats up top, no doubt. The lofty figure of Peter Crouch will thrive all afternoon if Cardiff defend like they did against Palace. Arnautovic and the recently swapped Peter Odemwingie will also run riot if players go missing.

Consecutive wins is something Cardiff have failed to achieve in the Premier League this campaign, but today can be the day that changes. The team is crying out for someone to take the game by the scruff of the neck and lead them to three points, and a chance of survival. They need a hero.

It is an occasion that few of the Cardiff players may ever get the chance to witness again after today. Palace was a failure, but Cardiff have put themselves into a position to earn a second shot at winning a massive game. It now rests with the players, only against Stoke today will we see how much they want it.

Failure is not an option.

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