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Swansea City’s Russell Martin looks up . . . but for Cardiff and Mark Hudson, it’s a nervous glance over their shoulder

The Championship is back this weekend and that means both Swansea City and Cardiff City will re-start by looking in different directions.

For Swansea – who host Norwich City on Saturday – the glance is upwards, from eighth position in the table, to those clubs occupying the slots above them.

Head coach Russell Martin, who faces the club where he made his name as a player, will send his team out for the second half of the campaign, with the club handily placed.

Only goal difference keeps them outside of the play-off places.

Cardiff, on the other hand, will pick up the threads of their campaign, with manager Mark Hudson having a nervous glance downwards.

The Bluebirds are down in 19th position and only a single point above the relegation zone as they prepare for a tough-looking away trip to Stoke City.

Swansea are seven points adrift of Sheffield United, who currently occupy the second automatic promotion place.

If there are Swans supporters who reckon their team still has a realistic chance of going up without the need of the play-offs, by finishing in the top two, then it’s reasonable to suggest Cardiff could still make the play-offs. They, too, are seven points away from that particular goal.

Martin had a tough start to the season, but turned things around in October and at one point Swansea were as high as fourth in the table.

They have slipped back since then, after four draws and a defeat in their last five matches, but Martin reckons the four-week break for the World Cup might have done them some good, as they have regained some of their early season energy and worked on new tactical strategies on a week’s break in Scotland.

“We had a good week in Scotland, which was really helpful,” says Martin.

“We are in a good place. We love the group we are working with here and what they are giving us.

“They are showing that courage and willingness to run for each other and to play. The group is growing all the time.

“We are trying to work on solutions to new problems we face, we are clear in what we want and how we are trying to achieve what we want to achieve and the challenge is to transfer that work from the training pitch into the performance against Norwich.”

Wales pair Joe Allen and Ben Cabango have returned from World Cup duty, along with the club’s Cameroon international Olivier Ntcham, who played in his country’s shock win against Brazil.

There must be a doubt over Allen’s fitness, however, after he suffered another hamstring injury in Wales’ defeat to England.

For Cardiff, their visit to Stoke is an opportunity for a re-set after the inconsistencies of their first half of the campaign.

Cardiff don’t draw many games these days, but they have won four and lost six of their last 10 matches, including back-to-back most recent home defeats to Hull City and Sheffield United. 

Stoke are not much better in that regard, with four wins and five defeats in their last nine games.

But at least Cardiff will travel with the feel-good factor behind them from a successful Peter Whittingham testimonial night last week, which paid tribute to one of their greatest players – and offered Hudson the encouragement of a 3-1 victory over Premier League Aston Villa.

They, too, are boosted by the return of a World Cup veteran – in their case 20-year-old Rubin Colwill, who saw action in Qatar for Wales as a substitute against England.

Hudson insists Colwill can come straight back into contention for selection. 

“It’s an amazing thing,” said Hudson of Colwill’s achievement.

“We spoke to him and messaged him. We told him how proud we were of him and I’m sure his family feels the same.

“To have someone who has appeared in a World Cup is excellent. Now he is back with us and available for the weekend.”

Striker Isaak Davies is now nearing fitness, but won’t be available for this weekend.

“I’m looking for consistency from the team,” added Hudson. “We need points.”

In League Two, Newport County host Doncaster Rovers, having refused to budge on a request from the visitors to move the kick-off time forward to enable Rovers fans to watch England v France in the World Cup.

County rejected the proposal (they would have been the only ones shifting a kick-off time decided by the EFL) and their fans will be hoping their players prove just as immovable on the field.

Newport are currently 18th in the table, five places behind Doncaster, but only 11 points adrift of the promotion play-offs.

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