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Cardiff v Fulham Tips: Cagey affair expected in South Wales

Fulham take on Cardiff this evening in the first leg of their Championship play-off semi-final
Fulham take on Cardiff this evening in the first leg of their Championship play-off semi-final

The Championship season only ended on Wednesday, but time is now of the essence and such is the nature of professional football right now the play-offs need to be completed as quickly as possible. 

Last night Swansea overcame Brentford 1-0 at the Liberty Stadium to give themselves an advantage ahead of the return leg on Wednesday, and this evening Fulham make the trip to South Wales to take on Cardiff in the first leg of their semi-final duel. 

The visitors are slight favourites for this one, given a 36% chance of victory with their odds of 7/4 while Cardiff can be found at 9/5, an implied probability of 35%. 

The Cottagers will have midfielder Harrison Reed back available for this clash, after the Southampton loanee missed Wednesday’s draw against Wigan through suspension but aside from that Fulham have no injury complaints to contend with.

Cardiff will be without long-term absentees Isaac Vassell and Gregg Cunningham. 

We've previewed tonight's game - which kicks off at 19:45 and will be shown live on Sky Sports - below, and served up three football tips for you to consider based on a number of factors. 

My first tip is the Championship top scorer Aleksandar Mitrovic to register two or more shots on target. 

The Fulham front man has again been a standout performer in the second-tier this time around, scoring 26 goals, and carries with him a huge threat in the final third each time he steps foot on the pitch.

The Serbian hitman has found the back of the net three times in his previous four matches and will be fired up and raring to go this evening, with a spot in the play-off final and subsequent position in the Premier League up for grabs.

I’m feeling confident in his ability to register a couple of shots on goal this evening, and at odds of 6/4 (boosted from 7/5 by Paddy Power), think that this bet certainly has legs. 

I don’t tend to tip up correct score markets but I’ve got a real feeling that there will be little to separate these two teams this evening. 

Cardiff were the fourth-highest scorers in the second-tier this time out, netting 68 goals in 46 games, but interestingly ranked as low as tenth for goals conceded (58), suggesting some defensive frailties. 

I think they will find some luck against a Fulham side who have conceded four goals in their last two games, but keeping a clean sheet will prove a huge task given the visitors’ attacking strengths and the fact that they have the free-scoring Mitrovic at their disposal. 

A low-scoring draw seems like a probable outcome to me, and at odds of 11/2 I think BetVictor are offering tremendous value considering the same bet can be found as low as 9/2 with William Hill.

My longshot for tonight’s game - which has been boosted to 22/1 from 16/1 by the good people at Betfair - includes two players to be booked and one to have a shot on target. 

Fulham’s Harry Arter is no stranger to the referee’s notepad, with six yellow cards to his name this season the Republic of Ireland midfielder is the Cottagers’ joint-third most booked player this season. 

Arter never shies away from a challenge and is a full-blooded tackler; in a game of this magnitude that is exactly what you want as I’m expecting it to be a very physical and hard-fought battle, however often tempers can spill over and if they do you’d single out Arter as the main protagonist. 

One late challenge or a bit of afters and the 30-year-old is in the book once more, especially when faced with Cardiff’s Joe Ralls, who is a very similar player. 

Ralls has picked up five bookings this season and, like Arter, is no stranger to a hearty tackle in the centre of Cardiff’s midfield. He also picked up a yellow when these two sides met in the league earlier this month, so has previous against the west Londoners.

With this match anticipated to be a cagey encounter with plenty of physicality I can see Ralls working his way into the book tonight, so he goes into my longshot here with little hesitation. 

To round this three-pronged-punt off I’m backing Fulham wide man Neeskens Kebano to have 1+ shot on target. The 28-year-old is bang in form at the minute having scored three goals in his previous two outings, including the equaliser against Wigan last Wednesday.

Kebano has averaged 1.1 shots per game this season and alongside Mitrovic is one of Fulham’s most dangerous attacking threats. With his recent goals providing him with plenty of confidence, I can see Kebano causing Cardiff some problems this evening.

So there are my three tips for this evening’s match, I hope you thoroughly enjoy the game but please remember to gamble responsibly. 

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