After an exciting first leg in Wales on Thursday, West Ham and Cardiff City resume their rivalry on Monday afternoon to see who will make it through to the play-off final at Wembley.
The Hammers take a 2-0 lead into the game thanks to a Jack Collison brace but know they cannot afford to take anything for granted having already lost to the Bluebirds at home this season.
After the disappointment of missing out on automatic promotion on the final day of the campaign, Sam Allardyce’s side bounced back in style at the Cardiff City Stadium as they dominated their Welsh opponents last time out.
However, due to their defensive tactics, they sometimes struggle at home and have dropped an incredible 28 points at Upton Park this season and this is something that will surely play on their minds going into the game.
Much of their fine play in the first leg was down to the ability of striker Carlton Cole to retain possession and allow his team-mates to find space in and around him. The former England man has come in for some serious criticism this season but enjoys the big stage and will once again be looking to play a big part on Monday.
Cardiff have admitted themselves that they were woeful in the first leg and were lucky to escape with just a two-goal deficit.
Malky Mackay’s side were tipped to cause an upset against the Hammers thanks to their recent strong form but they simply failed to produce when it mattered, something that has plagued them in recent years after a number of play-off heartbreaks.
One of the players who disappointed in the first game was playmaker Peter Whittingham whose performances appear to mirror the fortunes of his team. The 27-year-old has long been hailed as the Championship’s most skilful player and was even tipped for a move to Monday’s opponents when they were still in the Premier League.
However, nothing went right for him on Thursday and he was comfortably outplayed by his Hammers counterpart Mark Noble who had one of his best games of the season.
Whittingham will be desperate to rediscover his composure and knows he can get the better of Noble, having dominated him in the sides’ previous meeting at Upton Park on the opening weekend of the season.
As most semi-finals are, this will surely be a cagey affair with both teams desperate not to give anything away. However, West Ham will probably go through and, although they’re likely to concede, Cole’s form and their two-goal first-leg advantage should be enough for them to book their place at Wembley.