Cardiff City look ready to claim back their Premier League status, after drawing 3-3 with Wolfsburg.
Cardiff City passed their final pre-season test on Saturday as they drew 3-3 with German outfit Wolfsburg.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side have been impressive pre-season, and the Norwegian has managed to juggle his huge squad to ensure everyone has remained fit and earned game time.
The task is simple now – Cardiff must win the Championship.
Only this, when taking into account their quality, depth and budget, will justify their squad. Sure, promotion via second-place or the dreaded play-offs would do, but they have all the components to run away with this league.
Let’s start in goal, and as previously mentioned David Marshall is fit again following a finger injury he picked up against Yeovil last weekend.
He is the best goalkeeper in the Championship by a country mile, and fans will be delighted that he seems to be staying. He had been linked with a big-money move to the likes of Arsenal and Tottenham earlier in the summer, but now looks set to remain with the club.
The defence is still being worked on as we speak. Solskjaer admitted in his post-match press conference on Saturday that good progress is being made.
He would not reveal the identity of the incoming centre-half, with Jose Fonte of Southampton considered the likely subject. Declan John, Kévin Théophile-Catherine, Fabio and Johnny Brayford all pose strong options for full-back positions at Championship level, while Mark Hudson, Juan Cala, Ben Turner and one other will complete the defence.
The Bluebirds midfield boasts quality in abundance, and plenty of options for a Saturday-Tuesday-Saturday schedule that second-tier life has to offer.
Peter Whittingham, Aron Guannarsson, Kim Bo-Kyung, Mats Daehli, Magnus Eikrem, Guido Burgstaller, Craig Noone, Kagisho Dikgacoi and at the moment Jordon Mutch represent the Cardiff midfield. There is bags of attacking prowess, pace and trickery among them to cause all Championship clubs problems. Whittingham himself has always thrived at this level, and should be a regular figure in the centre, while Daehli could take the league by storm.
Javi Guerra, Federico Macheda and Adam Le Fondre have joined Kenwyne Jones and Nicky Maynard in attack, and collectively possess tons of experience in the division. Solskjaer's forwards are tailor made to be a success this season, with power, aerial threat and industry that should see bags of goals.
On paper, Cardiff are the strongest team in the Championship, and if all goes to plan they should stroll to promotion. But with the Bluebirds there's always a sting in the tale.
If Solskjaer can get an idea of a starting XI and stick with it, albeit with the odd changes due to fixture demands, Cardiff have everything there to make an immediate return to the Premier League.