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Cardiff to edge Leicester in play-offs - Steve Claridge

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Heart says Foxes, head says Cardiff

Steve Claridge believes Cardiff City have the edge over Leicester City in their Championship play-off semi-final.

The two sides meet in the first leg at Leicester's Walkers Stadium on Sunday with the second leg taking place on Wednesday at the Cardiff City Stadium.

"My heart says Leicester because I'm ex-Leicester and I love the place," he told the BBC's Sport Wales TV show.

"But my head just favours Cardiff because they have Championship players," said the former striker.

Cardiff finished fourth in the Championship having sealed their play-off place with two games to spare.

Leicester finished a place below the Bluebirds, also with 76 points, but reached the play-offs a week later.

In the two regular league games this season, both sides have beaten each other at their respective home grounds - Leicester 1-0 and Cardiff 2-1.

Cardiff do have the overall upper hand having earlier knocked them out in this season's FA Cup, 4-2 in the fourth round.

But the two sides go into the crucial play-off games in good form.

The Foxes, who are looking for back-to-back promotions after winning the League One title last season, have won their last five after turning around a five-match winless run which included four straight defeats.

Cardiff have lost just one of their last 11 league games, a run which started after the defeat at Leicester.

The eventual winners will face the winners of Nottingham Forest v Blackpool at Wembley for a place in the Premier League.

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"Whatever you say about Leicester, they've carried the momentum on from last year and they've got some good players," Claridge told the BBC's Sport Wales programme.

"I think because they've had such a good year they will believe the world's their oyster.

"If Cardiff play at the top of their game and Leicester play at the top of their game you would just favour Cardiff - but by no means is it certain that that will happen.

"Cardiff are going to have to play very well. If they do then they have an outstanding chance of going through."

Claridge achieved hero status at Leicester in 1996 when he scored the winning goal at Wembley as the Foxes beat Crystal Palace 2-1 in the play-off final in the last minute of extra time, earning them a place in the Premier League.

But he believes current hero Matty Fryatt, who has just returned from almost three months out with a broken jaw, could hold the key to success.

"Matty Fryatt coming back... will be a huge, huge plus to them although they have done well without him," Claridge said of the 12-goal striker.

"He is undoubtedly someone who can turn at a sixpence.

"But [Cardiff's] Peter Whittingham, Michael Chopra and Jay Bothroyd are all players that can win a game of football.

"These players will have to play well and be the difference between the two sides if Cardiff are to progress."

*Catch Steve Claridge's full verdict on Cardiff's play-off hopes on Friday's Sport Wales, BBC TWO Wales at 2100 BST



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see also
Jones saddles up for play-off
07 May 10 |  Cardiff
Sport Wales: The TV Programme
15 Mar 11 |  Wales
Follow Sport Wales' tweets
04 Mar 10 |  Wales
Cardiff's unexpected play-off tale
05 May 10 |  Cardiff
Cardiff given more time over tax
05 May 10 |  South east
Fryatt not shocked by Foxes form
05 May 10 |  Leicester
Ridsdale to step down at Cardiff
30 Apr 10 |  Cardiff
Cardiff 2-1 Leicester
30 Mar 10 |  Championship
Leicester 1-0 Cardiff
13 Mar 10 |  Championship
Fryatt ruled out for eight weeks
11 Feb 10 |  Leicester
BBC Sport Wales coverage
03 Oct 11 |  Wales


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