June 18, 2024


Erol Bulut has almost nailed down his Cardiff City XI for Leeds United opener but one key thing has been missing so far

The Bluebirds are just a couple of weeks away from their Championship curtain raiser

Cardiff City’s first-choice starting XI is beginning to take shape.

The Bluebirds were good value in their 1-0 defeat by Braga, who finished third in the Portuguese top tier last season, with their second-half XI really dominating the game without taking their chances.

Taking a look at that second-half side against Braga — which consisted of Jak Alnwick, Perry Ng, Dimitrios Goutas, Mark McGuinness, Callum O’Dowda, Joe Ralls, Ryan Wintle, Yakou Meite, Callum Robinson, Karlan Grant and Callum O’Dowda — it’s probably pretty close to what many fans would have.

READ MORE: Erol Bulut reveals how many more transfers are coming at Cardiff City as duo set for moves


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There are a few tweaks which need to be made, which we will come on to, but Bulut himself said he is getting a clearer idea of who will take the field for City in that opener against Leeds United on August 6.

“Today I was trying in the second half to be close to the XI,” he told WalesOnline. “Of course this will also show in the game against Porto and also the last game when we play against Wycombe.

“I will be more clear who will start the first XI against Leeds away. We have enough time until then to think about it.”

In all likelihood, Ryan Allsop will be in goal. Porto is the tougher test of the two Portuguese games and it was decided it was better for both goalkeepers to have two lots of 90 minutes, rather than 45s.

The back four is likely how they will line up at Elland Road, with O’Dowda having to slot back in at left-back. It’s not ideal, but Jamilu Collins does look rusty still, which is understandable after such a long lay-off, while Joel Bagan is trying to force his way into contention.


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That midfield pairing appears to be Bulut’s preferred duo, although Ebou Adams’ pre-season performances cannot be ignored. He is really sticking his hand up and it’s good to see after he missed so much of last season.

The problem, well, not necessarily a problem, but perhaps the dilemma, comes at the top end of the pitch. Karlan Grant was excellent on debut out wide on the left, while Meite and Ugbo struggled to really impact the game as they would have liked. Robinson is a class act but had few chances to impose himself, either.

The trouble is, Grant, Robinson and Meite in behind Ugbo just looked the wrong make-up. They are all maybe strikers who can slot in elsewhere if called upon and they played as such. The one thing this team has been missing is an Aaron Ramsey.

It was deemed too soon for Ramsey, who signed for the club only on Saturday, to feature against Braga, but expect him to play a part against Porto. Having him in that No.10 role, with Grant and Meite flanking him behind Robinson up front is probably the way they will go. That appears the best combination to unlock the key.

It needs a playmaker-type player in there. We saw fleetingly just how devastating Grant could be down that left wing when he was released on occasion, while Robinson threatened to get in behind but got flagged for offside a couple of times.


Jak Alnwick of Cardiff City kicks the ball during the pre-season... News  Photo - Getty Images

Someone with the poise and timing of Ramsey can be key to all that. Failing that, Rubin Colwill, who once again fronted up and put in yet another impressive performance against the Portuguese side on Wednesday night, looks in some form and could easily play that role, too, should Ramsey be unavailable or unable to complete the 90 minutes. In some aspects, they looked more threatening in that first half when Colwill, a natural playmaker, linked up with Kieron Evans on City’s left, getting in behind and troubling defenders.

That is the obvious thing that has been missing. Goals haven’t been flying in left, right and centre for Cardiff in pre-season, but getting that combination right will be key, you feel. And Bulut hopes the City fans who are out in Portugal will be able to see Ramsey in action on Saturday night in Almancil.

“We worked a lot on it. Our owner and chairman worked a lot to get him back home,” Bulut said of Ramsey. “Of course, I am very, very happy.

“Maybe today, if he played, it would have been different. But he needs a little bit of game to get fit.

“He will get a few minutes minutes against Porto. Whether it’s at the start or at the end, we will have to check with our coaches, physios, but he will for sure get some minutes.”

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