Cardiff City vs Fulham preview: Cottagers travel to Cardiff for semi-final first leg
(Photo by Nathan Stirk/Getty Images)

Neil Harris' Cardiff City will welcome Scott Parker's Fulham on Monday as they face off against each other in the first leg of the Championship play-off semi finals.

The Cottagers come into this game after drawing 1-1 to Wigan Athletic on the final day of the regular season, despite dominating possession over the Latics and managing 12 shots throughout the game. However, only three of those were on target - and it was Neeskens Kebano's wonderful free-kick that helped salvage a point for Fulham at the DW Stadium.

Cardiff are very much the form team coming into this clash, winning their last three matches, with their most recent loss coming against their opponents, Fulham.

With the possibility of an all Welsh final on the cards, Cardiff must first overcome the ever dangerous Fulham before they even think about Swansea, or perhaps Brentford in the final.

Key Battle

This clash will be the battle of the strikers, both Alexander Mitrovic and Robert Glatzel have both stepped up when it's counted for their sides. 

Mitrovic has bagged an incredible 26 goals this season in the Championship, as well as assisting two. The striker will be looking to add to his incredible tally throughout the play-offs as he aims for a return to the Premier League.

For the Bluebirds, Glatzel might not have managed double figures like Mitrovic - scoring only seven goals in the league this season, but the German has proved to be a key component to Harris' Cardiff side - and has featured 30 times throughout the season. Acting as the spearhead of the Cardiff forward line, the target-man often looks to bring his fellow teammates into the game with his holdup play.

Previous Meeting

The last time the two sides met was in the second week of July at Craven Cottage. The hosts emerged the victors as they put two goals past a frustrated Cardiff defence, which prides itself on being so resolute at the back.

Mitrovic put Fulham ahead on the 35th minute from the penalty spot, a penalty he earned for his side at the back post. 

Josh Onomah doubled his sides lead, firing an impressive shot past Alex Smithies after the midfielder took an impressive first touch. 

In their previous five encounters, Fulham have won three, drawn one and lost on against Cardiff. Cardiff's only recent victory over Fulham in October 2018 in the Premier League, in a six goal thriller which Cardiff won 4-2.

Team News

The only injury concerns for Cardiff are Isaac Vassel and Gregg Cunningham, both of which are long term absentees.

As for Fulham, they will only be without Ivan Cavaliero - as Harrison Reed has now served his one match suspension and is available for selection.

Predicted XI

Cardiff XI: Smithies; Bacuna, Nelson, Morrison, Bennet; Ralls, Vaulkes; Mendez-Laing, Tomlin, Hoilett; Glatzel (4-2-3-1).

Fulham XI: Rodak; Christie, Hector, Reem, Bryan; Arter, Johansen; Knockart, Onomah, Kebano; Mitrovic (4-2-3-1).

Managers Thoughts

Neil Harris has been open about his sides approach against Fulham, insisting his side remains calm ahead of their two-legged affair:

"I’ve talked a lot about calmness and focus. One step at a time. Not overthinking things or putting pressure on my players. I want them to enjoy it and embrace the occasions the play-offs bring.

"You have to approach them like cup games. That’s why I enjoy them so much. There is a slight difference without Cardiff City fans.”

Harris is relishing the idea that his side may come into the clash as underdogs.

"We come into this a little bit as an underdog, certainly against Fulham. That’s why we can enjoy it and play without fear.

"Fulham is a monumental task for us over two fixtures. A very good side and a real challenge.

"We are playing well individually and collectively. I have huge faith."

Parker was full of praise for the job that Harris has done at Cardiff and is wary of the threat that they possess:

“Neil’s done a fantastic job, Expectation at Cardiff would’ve been to be in the position they’re in now and they changed manager because of that maybe.

“Neil’s come in and got them to that position, so he’s done an incredible job. They’re an in-form team, a team which was in the Premier League only last year.

“This is the nitty gritty now. 46 games of the season have passed, and we now go into the Play-Offs where there’s a lot at stake.

“We need to worry about ourselves and worry about showing up how I want us to show up. There’s certain ingredients I want in our performance, and if we do that then I know we’ll be fine."