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Cardiff v Aston Villa preview

OLE GUNNAR Solskjaer’s Cardiff City face a must-win home tie against Aston Villa

Picture: <a href="http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Ole_Gunnar_Solskjaer_Trondheim2011-1.jpg</a>">Tor Atle Kleven

Picture: Ole Gunnar Solskjaer – courtesy of Tor Atle Kleven

tonight in their fight to stay in the Premier League.

Bluebirds fans are demanding an immediate improvement in form following the excruciating 3-0 loss to local rivals Swansea on Saturday. A similar result would leave Cardiff with a near insurmountable task.

Over the past three seasons the lowest point tally to avoid relegation was 37, achieved by Queens Park rangers in the 2011-12 season. Cardiff are currently 16 points shy of this with 13 games remaining.

“We’ll probably need either 17 or 18 points, but you never know in this league,” Solskjaer said yesterday.

With the Bluebirds suffering five defeats and conceding 15 goals in their last six league games, recent form has done little to suggest they will avoid the drop.

Solskjaer recognises the urgent need for improvement: “There are two massive home matches coming up against Villa and Hull. We need to start winning games, that’s the demand for us.

“Of course, we target to win these games. You’ve gotta make sure that you’re balanced, the team has got a foundation and not conceding too many goals.”

City will probably need to pick up around five wins in their remaining fixtures, the same number of victories they have managed in their opening 25 games.

The improvement needs to begin now. Home fixtures will prove crucial, with games against Hull, Fulham, Crystal Palace and Stoke before the end of the season.

Tonight’s game presents a real opportunity for Cardiff to steal a march on their relegation rivals, with Fulham, West Brom and Sunderland all facing top four opposition.

On top of this, Villa’s Ryan Bertrand could miss the game after clashing with a post at the weekend. Ron Vlaar is also a doubt due to a hamstring problem.

To try to capitalise on this, Solskjaer has indicated he will turn to his new signings to reinvigorate his side: “You may see one or two Norwegians involved. Juan [Cala] is also in my thoughts, he’s been positive and bright,” he said.

Only seven points separate the bottom half of the table, but Cardiff are in danger of falling off the pace. Their poor goal difference means even a win tonight won’t lift them out of the bottom three.

Bluebirds captain Steven Caulker warned his teammates to step up: “We know we’re in a dog fight now, but it’s the games against teams like Aston Villa where we’ll be looking to get three points,” he said.

Defeat would set alarm bells ringing, and make Premier League survival extremely difficult for Solskjaer’s men.

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