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Preview: Cardiff City v Burnley

Eddie Howe returns to the dugout after the death of his mother last weekend, writes Jamie Smith.

It’s sure to be a difficult day for Eddie Howe as he makes his return to the dugout on Mothering Sunday, just a week after he lost his mum.

While all of us at NNN are thinking of him at this hard time, there are still points to play for and a slim chance of the play-offs to fight to keep alive.

Today could be an insight into Howe’s plans for next season as he is facing having to do without his leading scorer and talisman Jay Rodriguez. Jay is pretty much the first name on the team sheet these days and we’ve only scored four since the turn of the year if you take his strikes away. And one of those was an own goal.

Charlie Austin’s form has stagnated in recent months and he has only scored once in about ten weeks. Martin Paterson’s injury problems are well documented and the decision not to sell him to Portsmouth in the summer – Steve Cotterill reportedly bid over £2 million – looks increasingly puzzling. Zavon Hines has shown nothing in his brief glimpses, although he’s been scoring for the reserves. Danny Ings is promising, but raw.

It’s a worry, especially with the midfielders failing to chip in this season. Ross Wallace has a few, but Chris McCann and Dean Marney haven’t scored enough, while Keith Treacy has not been the source of goals we were hoping for. Howe needs more from his midfield men.

Junior Stanislas hasn’t started since the 2-0 win at Middlesbrough – it’s no coincidence we’ve been fairly rubbish while he’s been out of the side – but he could make his return today. A lot of Junior’s best work goes unnoticed. He’s an unshowy winger, happy to recycle possession quietly, though his delivery, when it comes, is generally excellent. He does need to get more involved in the game, but that will come in time.

Danny Lafferty cannot be far away from a debut, especially as the clean sheets have dried up and Ben Mee is looking less than solid at left-back at the moment.

Stephen McPhail is back in training for Cardiff City, but the game comes too soon for him, while striker Rudy Gestede misses out, opening the door for Robert Earnshaw to partner Kenny Miller up front for the Bluebirds.

The Carling Cup finalists have had a fairly disappointing campaign, despite the cup run, with Malky Mackay not able to secure his side in promotion contention yet. However, a late run could still see them break into the top six. A win today would see them go fourth.

A big win could see the Clarets back in the top half of the Championship and with no draws on the road this season, it’s tempting to tip us to turn it around in Burnley fashion with a surprising win.

Cardiff have lost three of their last four at home in the league so they are nothing to be afraid out, but I fear our season is going to peter out quietly, especially if Rodriguez misses out today.

Prediction: Cardiff City 2-1 Burnley


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