The similarities with the last time Charlton welcomed Cardiff to The Valley are few, and the game itself simply won’t be anything like it, but there’s one thing in common with the lead up to that special night in November 2012.
Just like two seasons ago, fans of the Addicks aren’t entirely sure where their next win is coming from. The defeat to Blackburn Rovers last Saturday not as emphatic as the one to Middlesbrough, but equally as lifeless and demoralising. Cardiff not the threat they were in 2012, and not in the greatest of form themselves, but still a side with enough quality to make you sweat.
But before that famous 5-4 victory over the Bluebirds, there was at least some sort of hope. Seemingly misguided and definitely irrational, but the group of players Chris Powell put together had an incredible spirit and determination that meant they could overcome the toughest of circumstances.
That spirit saw Powell’s side come from two goals down to beat Cardiff, and probably keep Powell in a job. That spirit earned Charlton a ninth place finish. That spirit kept the Addicks in the Championship last season.
But is that sort of spirit, that sort needed to win games when confidence and form is completely lacking as was also shown last Boxing Day in the outstanding victory over Brighton, in this squad?
With the quality of individuals and Bob Peeters’ managerial decisions beginning to be questioned, in addition to injuries hampering an already small squad, you would think such spirit would need to be shown in order to beat the Bluebirds.
At the very least, a group of players lacking confidence must show some sort of response, and some sort of improvement.
LAST MEETING – CARDIFF CITY 0-0 CHARLTON ATHLETIC
On the night that Cardiff sealed their promotion to the Premier League, Charlton’s performance left those who had travelled to Wales just as proud as the pitch-invading home supporters.
It may not have been a performance that resulted in victory, but that Chris Powell’s side competed and, at times, bettered the champions elect was more than enough. It was largely a solid defensive effort, but there was enough in attack, with Michael Morrison and Ricardo Fuller coming close, to mean the Addicks could realistically claim they had a decent chance to take all three points.
One of the best nights I’ve had supporting Charlton away from The Valley, despite the lack of goals.
Charlton aren’t the only one with a few problems. Two defeats in a row have derailed Cardiff’s play-off push and made Russell Slade’s start to life as manager of the Bluebirds the wrong side of mixed.
And the 3-2 loss at home to Brentford was particularly troubling for supporters of the Welsh side, with the club’s form at the Cardiff City Stadium sustaining their rather dubious challenge for a top six spot.
With just a win and a draw away from home so far this season, their ability to pick up points outside of Wales will have to improve desperately quickly, starting at The Valley, if Cardiff are to successful fight their way into the top six.
With just one win in nine, and performances increasingly uninspiring, a promising start to the season has become something of a slog.
Watching Saturday’s defeat to Blackburn was exactly that. Defensive errors, a failure to retain possession and absolutely no cutting edge made for an incredibly difficult and depressing watch.
It means the challenge facing Charlton’s players now is to pick themselves up from the floor and find the level of performance, and play with the confidence, shown in the early weeks of the season.
Cardiff look set to bring Kenwyne Jones into the starting XI after the forward scored from the bench against Brentford on Saturday.
Jones, who has eight goals this season, is likely to replace Federico Macheda and partner Adam Le Fondre in attack.
But the Bluebirds remain without the injured Anthony Pilkington, with Kim Bo-Kyung and Craig Noone the creative forces within Cardiff’s side.
While the New Year is normally a time for change, Charlton will be making there’s a week early.
The injuries to Johnnie Jackson, Rhoys Wiggins and Stephen Henderson mean changes won’t be numerous, but some have to be made following two desperately disappointing performances.
The most obvious would be moving Chris Solly to left-back. Hardly ideal, with the full-back kept away from the right, but better than the academy graduate playing in midfield and having Morgan Fox struggle once again.
Such a change would see Lawrie Wilson brought into the starting Xi, while Frederic Bulot, George Tucudean and Joe Pigott will also be hoping to start with Callum Harriott’s place under threat.
KEY BATTLE: STAYING STRONG AT THE BACK
A response is needed from every member of Charlton’s side, in addition to Peeters, but it’s most needed at the back.
Andre Bikey and Tal Ben Haim were given the run around by Rudy Gestede and Jordan Rhodes, while Nick Pope, who offered a response of sorts by pulling off a couple of outstanding saves thereafter, played a rather unfortunate role in both goals conceded by the Addicks.
And while any combination the Bluebirds choose to play up top will be somewhat less threatening than arguably the division’s most impressive forward pair, Charlton will still have a task to deal with the likes of Jones, Le Fondre and Macheda, who scored twice against them last season for Birmingham.
Especially with the chances of Charlton’s toothlessness in attack unlikely to end, it means the back line must return to its resilient self on Boxing Day; a resilience that has played a vital role in the points the Addicks have picked up this season.
Having witnessed what I did last weekend, it’s incredibly difficult to feel positive ahead of this Boxing Day class. I’d quite like to go through the day without feeling incredibly grumpy, though, so I’m desperate to see some sort of response. And against a side with such rotten fortunes away from home, there really has to be one. Charlton Athletic 1-1 Cardiff City