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Key Battles: Cardiff City v Reading FC

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The Royals play Cardiff tomorrow afternoon and Ethan is back to give us his view of the key player battles Steve Clarke’s men face.

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Nick Blackman vs Sean Morrison

Yet again, Nick Blackman is mentioned as a major threat to our opposition. Cardiff manager Russell Slade will no doubt be aware of Blackman's goal-scoring form of late and will therefore look to his defenders to mark him out of the game.

This is where former Reading centre-back Sean Morrison will look to make a difference. Blackman, however, hasn't scored since Reading drew 1-1 with Rotherham away from home on 20 October so he'll be intent on adding to his tally of nine in the Championship to maintain his exceptional form.

Sean Morrison is the brick wall Blackman will have to break through to make an impact on the game tomorrow afternoon. The 24 year old has played all of Cardiff's 15 league fixtures so far this season during which the Bluebirds have conceded a respectable 12 goals.

According to Squawka, Morrison has won 60% of his aerial duels with no obvious defensive errors. Additionally, he's scored two goals with an average pass accuracy of 71% and judging on current form, it'll be a battle I'll be interested in for sure.

Anton Ferdinand vs Joe Mason

Cardiff sit ninth in the Championship table having won only two of their last eight fixtures in the League. Goals have been an issue for the Bluebirds as well - a poor two goals in their last five games is not a stat easy on their fans.

The ubiquitous Joe Mason is most likely Cardiff's biggest threat. The striker is another Bluebird to feature in all 15 of Cardiff's league games this season, scoring five goals in the process with an impressive 71% shot accuracy. With the accurate Peter Whittingham in behind Mason, the 24 year old will be provided with plenty of opportunities unless Reading centre-back Anton Ferdinand can deal with him successfully.

Ferdinand started his first game since coming back from injury in the Royals' 2-2 draw with Huddersfield Town on Tuesday night, and looked solid for the most part, but was noticeable rusty on the odd occasion. He replaced Michael Hector who was dropped from the 18-man squad and looked like a competent alternative for Steve Clarke.

After his initial shaky return from injury, we'll be hoping he can maintain his match fitness as the partnership he and club captain Paul McShane had at the beginning of the season was reliable and a pleasure to watch. If he retains his place in central defence, Ferdinand's pace and aerial command will come in handy if Kenwyne Jones features, and his interceptions against Huddersfield on Tuesday will likely need to be doubled to deal with the threat of link-up between Mason and Whittingham.

All in all, a good game is expected between two promotion-hopeful sides in South Wales tomorrow afternoon, and the above key player battles will be worth keeping an eye on.

One battle we won't see... Danny Williams vs Peter Whittingham

Cardiff's influential midfielder Peter Whittingham has had a massive impact on his team's attacking prospects this campaign. He has created an impressive 35 clear chances for his teammates so far, missing just one of Cardiff's league fixtures. However, luckily for Reading, the Englishman is suspended for Saturday's fixture - having picked up a fifth booking of the season.

He has a strong 78% average pass accuracy, combined with a 50% shot accuracy, which is admirable for a midfielder. However, some may consider Whittingham a possible weak link for Cardiff on the defensive, especially as he is one yellow card away from a one-game suspension.

Danny Williams would have been called upon to work tirelessly from box to box tracking Whittingham when defending. Williams' fitness, as well as his performances, has been relatively good recently and Reading fans will want more of the same in South Wales tomorrow - against whoever Russell Slade chooses to replace Peter Whittingham.

URZZ!

All stats in this article come from Squawka.