The international break is over, with the Championship returning with a bang. This Sunday, Russell Martin will get his first taste of the South Wales derby as Cardiff City travel to the Swansea.com Stadium.
The Swans drew 0-0 at Derby County last time out, despite dominating possession. The point was enough to see Swansea move above rivals Cardiff on goal difference. Both sides have picked up 11 points from the first 11 games, although the visitors are on a run of five successive losses. They started the season with a 1-1 draw at home to Barnsley, before a 2-0 win at Blackpool. They then drew 2-2 at Peterborough and beat Millwall 3-1, suffering their first defeat at home to Bristol City. A win at Nottingham Forest followed, before a run of five losses to Coventry, Bournemouth, Blackburn, West Brom and Reading. In that run, Cardiff have scored just once, conceding 12, including a 5-1 loss to Blackburn and a 4-0 home defeat to West Brom.
Their transfer window
The Bluebirds kicked off their window with the signing of Mark McGuinness, a 20-year-old centre-back from Arsenal. The defender has played seven times for the Republic of Ireland Under-21s. Since arriving, he has started in three league games, including their two most recent outings.
McGuinness was joined by a fellow Irishman when James Collins arrived from Luton Town. Not to be confused with the former Wales international, Collins is a 30-year-old striker who scored 68 goals in 174 games for Luton Town. However, he is yet to score since completing his move to South Wales, despite featuring in all 11 league games so far.
They also signed Ryan Wintle on a free transfer after the midfielder left Crewe Alexandra. However, the 24-year-old was loaned to newly promoted Blackpool in August. There, he has made seven league appearances.
Their final signing came in mid-July when Ryan Giles joined on a season-long loan from Wolves. The 21-year-old has been a regular since his arrival. He started in four of their first five games, registering four assists before suffering an injury that ruled him out for several weeks. He returned for the second half of their loss to Blackburn before starting their two most recent games.
As for outgoings, Cardiff kicked off their window with the sale of Robert Glatzel. The 27-year-old German striker failed to live up to expectations after joining from FC Heidenheim in 2019. He scored 10 goals in 51 Championship games before joining Hamburger SV. He has started the season extremely well for the German side, scoring five in nine second-tier games.
Also departing the club was Sol Bamba. The 36-year-old centre-back was a regular starter for Cardiff during their promotion season and went on to play 28 Premier League games for them. In January 2021, he was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin lymphoma, but thankfully announced four months later that he was cancer-free. Bamba reunited with Neil Warnock at Middlesbrough, where he has played four Championship games this season.
Elsewhere, Joe Bennett departed for Wigan Athletic after five years at Cardiff. He made 164 league appearances during that time, scoring five goals.
Two years after completing the short move to the Bluebirds, goalkeeper Joe Day returned to Newport County. He made 197 appearances for Newport over a four-year spell, before joining Cardiff in 2019. He played just once in the league, with two join spells at lower-league clubs in recent years. He has resumed his post as Newport’s number one keeper since his return.
Also departing on a free transfer was Junior Hoilett, who completed a move to fellow Championship side Reading. Hoilett was a key figure in their promotion season in 2017-18, featuring in all 46 league games. He remained a regular for two years, but his appearances were limited last season. His only goal for Reading came against his former club in their 1-0 win last time out.
Following a very brief spell, Wales international Jonny Williams joined League Two Swindon Town. He only arrived at Cardiff in February but failed to make an impact in his limited gametime.
Earlier this month, Lee Tomlin left the club by mutual consent. The skilful midfielder has struggled with fitness issues and remains without a club.
After joining from Crawley Town in January with a prolific goalscoring record, Max Watters moved to MK Dons on loan. The 22-year-old forward scored 13 in 15 games for Crawley, attracting interest from several clubs including Swansea.
They also loaned out two wingers, with Gavin Whyte joining Oxford United and Josh Murphy moving to Preston. Murphy joined the club in June 2018 for £11 million but has fallen out of favour under Mick McCarthy.
Since September 2016, Sean Morrison has captained Cardiff. The 30-year-old centre-back joined the club in 2014 and has gone on to make more than 270 league appearances, scoring 32 goals.
He began his career at Swindon Town, before moving to Reading in 2010. He was loaned out to Huddersfield in 2011-12 but played in 16 Premier League games in 2012-13.
Following Cardiff’s relegation in 2014, he joined from Reading for an estimated £3 million.
After Neil Harris was sacked in January 2021, Cardiff appointed experienced manager Mick McCarthy. The 62-year-old made his professional debut in 1977 and went on to play over 500 league games before turning his attention to management in 1992.
He spent much of his playing career at Barnsley, helping guide them to promotion from the fourth tier to the second tier between 1979-1981. He was named their Player of the Year in 1977-78, 78-79 and 80-81. He made 272 league appearances for the club before joining Manchester City in 1983-84. Despite joining midway through the campaign, he was named Manchester City’s Player of the Year.
18 months after joining the Manchester club, they achieved promotion to the top flight, where he played regular football until 1987, when he moved to Celtic. He spent two years at the Scottish giants, winning the SPL title in his first season, and the Scottish Cup in both seasons.
He had a brief spell at Lyon, before finishing his career at Millwall. In 1993, he retired, having made 588 appearances at club level.
He also won 57 caps for Republic of Ireland, including their Euro 1988 and 1990 World Cup campaigns. He also captained the national side.
He became player-manager at Millwall in 1992, playing in one cup game before hanging up his playing boots. He guided them to the Second Division play-offs, but they lost to Derby County in the semi-finals.
During the 1995-96 season, he resigned as Millwall manager to become the Republic of Ireland boss. After narrowly missing out on qualification for the 1998 World Cup and Euro 2000, McCarthy guided Ireland to the 2002 World Cup. They finished second in their group, drawing with Cameroon and eventual finalists Germany before a 3-0 win over Saudi Arabia in the final game. They went on to face Spain in the Round of 16, losing on penalties after a 1-1 draw.
Despite reaching the knockout stages of the World Cup, McCarthy resigned less than five months later, following a poor start to their Euro 2004 qualifying campaign. Four months later, he became the manager of then-Premiership side Sunderland. The Black Cats were in woeful form before he arrived, having suffered six successive defeats. He was understandably unable to steer them to safety but led the club to the second-tier play-offs in his first full season. They lost on penalties to Crystal Palace.
A year later, McCarthy guided Sunderland back to the top flight, winning the Championship title. However, they endured a torrid first season back. McCarthy was sacked in March 2006, with the club 16 points from safety.
A few months after his departure from Sunderland, McCarthy joined Wolves. Despite their financial issues, they finished in a play-off place. It proved to be a third successive play-off defeat for him though, as they lost to local rivals West Brom in both legs.
After a seventh-place finish in 2007-08, McCarthy won his second Championship title the following season. They finished 15th upon their return to the top flight, before narrowly avoiding relegation in 2010-11. He remained at the club until February 2012, when he was sacked after a poor run of form.
He moved to Ipswich in November 2012, spending six seasons there before departing in 2018. This tenure included their first play-off appearance in a decade, with a highest finish of sixth and a lowest of 16th.
In November 2018, McCarthy was re-appointed as manager of Republic of Ireland. Their Euro 2020 qualification campaign started well, but after failing to win any of their final four games, they finished third. However, they still received a play-off place via the Nations League. Following the Covid delay, McCarthy resigned as manager in April 2020. He was set to leave after Euro 2020 but departed early, with Stephen Kenny taking over.
Seven months later, he took over at Cypriot side APOEL. However, a poor run of two wins, one draw and five losses saw him sacked after just eight games in charge.
Less than three weeks after his abrupt departure, he joined Cardiff City. They finished the season strong but have struggled so far this campaign. If the Swans win this weekend, his time could be up as Cardiff boss.
Previous meetings with Cardiff City
South Wales derbies are typically close affairs. Prior to last season, all but one of the previous 17 meetings had been decided by a goal.
12th December 2020
For the first South Wales derby without fans, Swansea travelled to the Cardiff City Stadium looking to move back into the automatic promotion places. The Bluebirds had won four in a row coming into this game.
However, it was the e visitors who opened the scoring after just six minutes, through an out-of-form Jamal Lowe. The Jamaican international volleyed from close range. Swansea came close to doubling their advantage through Matt Grimes who struck the post from long range.
Midway through the second half, Cardiff were reduced to 10 men when Joe Ralls was shown a second yellow card for a reckless challenge on Korey Smith.
Swansea made the most of the one-man advantage five minutes later; Jamal Lowe scored his second of the game in style, collecting the ball on the halfway line before beating several defenders and curling home with the outside of his boot.
Full time – Cardiff City 0-2 Swansea City
20th March 2021
Three months after their previous meeting, an in-form Cardiff City side visited Swansea. They had lost just one of their previous 13 games, winning seven and drawing five.
Cardiff opened the scoring in typical fashion after eight minutes, centre-back Aden Flint headed home after a long throw-in.
Swansea had several opportunities to equalise but failed to take their chances. Andre Ayew hit the post, before Morgan Whittaker missed from close range.
Full time – Swansea City 0-1 Cardiff City
After dominating against Derby, Swansea should be confident going into this game. The visitors are in woeful form, but form goes out the window on derby day.
For the first time this season, Russell Martin will have a fully fit squad to choose from. Olivier Ntcham, Michael Obafemi, and Ryan Bennett all returned to full training this week. Cardiff captain Sean Morrison in back in contention after missing their last game, while Kieffer Moore has also recovered from the eye injury he suffered for Wales.
With both sides struggling to score, the first goal will be crucial this weekend. Expect a typically tense game, likely decided by a few key moments. A fully fit Swansea team should be too much for Cardiff, but nothing is certain when these two sides meet.