Beleaguered Cardiff boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has cancelled his team’s Abu Dhabi trip to focus on picking up five vital wins from 11 remaining games.
Having crashed out of both cup competitions, the former Manchester United man has privately expressed relief at being able to focus on the league campaign alone, but doubts have crept in.
In what should have been the catalyst to an improving run of form against Hull City last weekend, the four-nil drubbing has only served to demonstrate just how big the task of keeping Cardiff City in the Premier League, and millions in revenue, really is.
Solskjaer has targeted five wins in the final 11 games to give his struggling side any chance of a second season in football’s top flight. Lumbered one spot from bottom with only Fulham below, Cardiff’s 22-point haul tells their story.
Until his very public sacking, former boss Malky Mackay had managed to amass 18 points, four being from both Manchester clubs, which sat the Bluebirds in 16th place and six points off the drop zone; all this despite off-field turmoil between manager and owner often descending into farce.
Solskjaer’s reign has seen just two occasions where his team have managed to collect any points; a win against a Norwich side struggling for goals, and plucky nil-nil with Villa where keeper Marshall was in scintillating form.
Since Christmas last year Cardiff have taken four points from a possible 24 and have leaked 18 goals in just eight matches. The cries of “Don’t sack Mackay” may have had a blessing of foresight about them.
The omens may not be too pleasing, but the bottom half of the table is separated by just ten points from bottom to tenth place. Just two wins, and some favourable results, would see the Bluebirds climb to relative comfort. The question is where the wins will come from.
Solskjaer takes his team to White Hart Lane this Sunday (March 2) to face a Spurs team still reeling from a one-nil loss to Norwich, so he can expect little for his travels there.
The following game at home to Fulham will be a must-win for Cardiff; playing a team who’ve sieved a porous 59 goals so far is the best chance of bolting three points to the table.
The month of March doesn’t get any kinder to Cardiff fans who will be lucky to see any return from Everton away (March 15) or the home game against a Liverpool team with a 70 goals to their name. Suarez and Sturridge will be happy to pile more goals on to the 22 Cardiff have already shipped at home.
The Bluebirds could mirror West Ham’s Great Escape of 2007 when the East End club ensured survival with seven wins from the last nine; albeit with the slight help of one Carlos Tevez.
An away win at West Brom, still winless under new boss Pepe Mel, is achievable on March 29.
The Bluebirds then have a four game run of which each is winnable. Two wins on the bounce is possible with the following game being Crystal Palace at home. The next game at Southampton will prove a tricky fixture, but the home tie against Stoke could muster another three points, as could Sunderland away.
The five games between the end of March and beginning of May will be absolutely vital to Solksjaer’s men who play the teams around them in a series of six-pointers.
Cardiff finish the season with a trip to Tyneside and a visit from Jose Mourinho’s title-chasers. Solksjaer will hope his team are safe by then, but even with five wins their total points tally may not be enough to avoid the trapdoor.
Former boss Mackay, will be watching closely.