By Gareth James
Cardiff City and Blackpool face a tougher survival battle this season than last, according to Tangerines boss Michael Appleton.
The Bluebirds host Blackpool on Saturday in a relegation battle that is likely to see one or other – or even both – in the Championship relegation zone over the Christmas period.
Mark Hudson’s Cardiff are currently in 20th position, but just a point above the relegation zone, while Blackpool are two points worse off and just one place off the bottom.
Last season both Derby County and Reading suffered points deductions for breaking financial regulations and Appleton reckons that gave clubs down the bottom an easier ride.
“It’s very different to last season if you think about it,” said Appleton.
“We had two clubs who were heavily deducted points, with Derby and Reading. There was a couple of teams who really struggled in the league last year and couldn’t keep pace with the rest of them.
“You could argue it was slightly easier or not as competitive as it is this year and I just think the points and how everything is positioned probably suggests that’s the case.
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“I think the teams at the top of the league, they know that when they go to sides that are competing at the bottom of the league at this moment in time, they know that they’re in for a very difficult game.
“They’re all very difficult fixtures. You look at the league and how condensed it is, it gives you a little bit of an insight of how competitive it is.”
Cardiff drew 1-1 when they their campaign resumed last week at Stoke City, buut with just two wins in their last nine matches, Hudson know his team have to start picking up three points in their games at home.
“We spoke before Stoke about the importance of points,” said Hudson.
“The character we showed there was enough to get a result, but we got a point. Coming back here, everyone is sticking together. With the fans behind us we know they want us to win a game.”
Blackpool have not won in five matches but they stop a four-match losing streak last week by drawing 0-0 at home to Birmingham City.
Appleton has picked out Cardiff’s former West Bromwich Albion striker Callum Robinson as the major threat to his visitors.
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“They’ve got a lot of threats and they’ve got a lot of players that I know pretty well that I’ve managed and coached before,” he added.
“(Callum) Robinson up top is a real threat, he’s a match winner, he’s a goalscorer. I know Callum O’Dowda very well and I gave him his opportunity at Oxford and he’s a talented player.
“I like their midfield players, there’s a lot of energy in there, and they’ve got some big lads at the back who are good in both boxes, so they probably are frustrated that they’ve picked up the points that they’ve picked up, similar to us, where they probably feel they should have more points on the board and slightly higher up the table.”
“I think it will be a reasonably open game, believe it or not, regardless of the position both teams find themselves in, and it should be quite an entertaining one.”
If Hudson can pick up another player like Robinson in the January transfer window then the Bluebirds boss will be more than happy.
With four goals and four assists since joining Cardiff, the Republic of Ireland international has made a major impact in his 11 games to date.
Now Hudson wants him to make an even bigger in the second half of the season – starting with another goal today.
“We knew what we getting into the building when we signed Callum. His four goals and four assists show what’s he capable of,” said Hudson.
“But it’s more than that, he’s big around the dressing room and has a big impact on those around him. He has a big influence
“Others now need to add to that, and we need to take responsibility across the board. We’ve created a lot of opportunities at home, but we need to be more ruthless.”
It was Robinson who guaranteed a point from the trip to Stoke last weekend when he fired home in the 58th minute to make it 2-2. That came on the back of an international goal in Malta in his previous game.
The challenge now is to make it three goals in as many names against the Tangerines.