Neil Warnock identifies Chris Coleman's biggest Sunderland challenge as clear-out gathers pace
Cardiff City welcome Sunderland to South Wales today with genuine hopes of relaunching a push for automatic promotion.
The Bluebirds have lost four league games in a row but remain just two points off second placed Derby County, and strengthened their squad with the loan signing of Yanic Wildschut from Norwich City on Friday.
Under Neil Warnock, they have travelled a long way in a short space of time.
They were just two points clear of struggling Rotherham at the foot of the table when he replaced Paul Trollope, facing many of the problems Chris Coleman must tackle at Sunderland.
A distant owner, disinterested players, frustrated fans.
Coleman has wasted little time making changes to his squad. Lewis Grabban, James Vaughan and Mika have all gone, with Coleman making no attempt to hide his expectation that Lamine Kone and Didier Ndong will follow.
Warnock knows how key those outgoings will be.
“I’ve been there myself; he’s made one signing and will probably get two or three more because he’ll know what he wants by now,” said Warnock.
“He’s had the chance to have a good look at them now before the window and I’m sure he’’ll come out of it a lot stronger as a side and look forward to the run-in.
“There’ll be players there he thinks he can trust already, there will be players he’d like to move out but can’t just yet because they’re on big wages or long contracts. That’s the most difficult part; you’re dealing with players you don’t really want there but you have to smile at them. That’s tough.
“He’ll be determined to rectify the situation and he knows he just has to scrap for points, but we know what we have to do too.”
Warnock's Cardiff have not had the best of records against teams struggling near the bottom, losing to Bolton, QPR and Birmingham City already this season.
The veteran manager is confident, however, that they can banish those problems in the early kick-off.
“Training’s been good and it’s been more like ourselves this week,” added Warnock.”
"It’s a big game for both clubs, we want to get back to winning ways and they want to get out of the bottom three.
“Yes, we’ve had problems with lower clubs, but we’ve had problems with everybody at different times and what’s more important is that we have to put our own house in order. We have to try and create more opportunities because we have not been scoring enough goals to win games, but we’ve also got to get back to keeping clean sheets. It’s a mixture of all the ingredients.
“Sunderland have got some good players – some left over from the Premier League – but a lot depends on how we play, really. At the moment we’re a bit thin in midfield, we’re not scoring goals and we’re conceding so we’re in disarray really.
“But we’re in disarray and third in the table which you’d take and we have been working hard on the training ground to get back to ourselves and to kick-on.”