Nottingham Forest vs Cardiff City preview: Can
Bluebirds end away day hoodoo at high-flying Forest?
Matty Cash fights for the ball with Cardiff's Greg Halford in a previous clash - Can he guide his side to victory this time around? 
Nathan Stark - Getty Images

With the festive season drawing closer, a period where titles can be won and lost, where promotion charges can fall away or gain momentum, it is vital that teams grab those important opportunities for points.

For teams in the tightly packed EFL Championship, a win can make such a massive difference. With those three points potentially going a long way towards promotion for Saturday's opponents Nottingham Forest and Cardiff City.

Story behind the game

Nottingham Forest see themselves as a perpetually underachieving side in recent times. However, under Sabri Lambouchi they have gained hope that they can finally return to the Premier League. A midweek 4-0 win over Queen's Park Rangers lifted them into fourth and closer to the automatic promotion places. Meanwhile Cardiff's new boss Neil Harris has collected four points from his two games in charge so far, including a 1-0 win over struggling Stoke City on Tuesday. The Welsh side sit in 11th, but more importantly, just five points outside the play-off places.

Cardiff are yet to win away from home this season, but will believe that they can end that run against Forest, who they beat home and away last season. In fact Cardiff have won the last four games between these two. Forest's record against their opponents from across the border is so bad that they've only picked up a single point from their last nine meetings.

So both sides will be looking to end their respective barren runs, climbing further up the table in the process.

Team news

Lambouchi could hand a start to wideman Alfa Semedo after he made a scoring substitute return from injury in midweek. Full-back Carl Jenkinson is imminently close to a return after being out since August. However Tendayi Darikwa is out until next year with ACL damage.

In the other camp, Harris has given encouraging news on the fitness of defender Sol Bamba, who is also recovering from an ACL, as he is close to fitness. Meanwhile Armand Traore and Joe Ralls remain out.

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Predicted Line-up

Nottingham Forest:

(4-2-3-1) Samba, Cash, Figueiredo, Worrall, Robinson, Watson, Silva, Semedo, Lolley, Ameobi, Grabban

Cardiff City:

(4-2-3-1) Etheridge, Peltier, Flint, Nelson, Bennett, Bacuna, Pack, Mendez-Laing, Tomlin, Hoilett, Madine

Key Clashes

Matty Cash v Junior Hoilett

Forest full-back Matty Cash, who came through the club's youth system in 2016, signed a new deal in the week, keeping at the club until 2023. And he'll want to prove that he deserves this new contract when he is charged with preventing the dangerous threat of Cardiff wideman Junior Hoilett. The Canadian has top flight experience, and he will be hoping that he can help bring about a second promotion in his fourth season at the club.

Ben Watson v Leandro Bacuna

Another player with Premier League experience is Forest captain Ben Watson, who has been a key feature in the middle of the park this season. The former FA Cup hero will be hoping he can win another midfield battle on Saturday against the more adventurous Leandro Bacuna. The Dutchman got his first goal of the season in midweek, so will be hoping to add to that tally and help his side to victory once more.

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What the managers have said

Forest boss Sabri Lambouchi spoke to the club's media, praising his players, but not underestimating their opponents. He said:

“I have a fantastic group, they all want to play and I have more options now so it is good.”

“Cardiff will be another tough game, completely different from tonight but with the full support of The City Ground we want to take maximum points.”

“Our support is just amazing, not just tonight but every game from the beginning. I am so surprised week after week, game after game and we want them to keep going.”

Meanwhile, Harris has insisted to local media that his side will improve after a game he described as 'not a classic' in midweek. He said:

“I said to them that we'll be better and I promise that, but if we have to roll our sleeves up and battle, we'll show that we can do that also.”

“Sometimes you need a little bit of class and Gary Madine with his back-flick and Leo's (Bacuna) run gave us that moment, so I'm delighted with the end product from that.”

“It wasn't a classic, in some ways it was a typical, scrappy Tuesday night Championship football match and I'll take that.”