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Premier League Preview: West Ham - Cardiff City

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Premier League Preview: West Ham - Cardiff City
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Premier League Preview: West Ham - Cardiff City

Cardiff City plays its first top-flight fixture in club history on Saturday as it embarks on a testing trip to Upton Park to face West Ham.

The Bluebirds – who won the fourth tier of English football in the 1992-93 season, the first year of the Premier League – won the Championship last term to earn themselves promotion. As a result, Malky Mackay's men become the second Welsh club in the league, joining rivals Swansea City, and have splashed the cash in an attempt to avoid relegation.

The club has broken its own transfer record on three occasions in the offseason as it signed Andreas Cornelius, Steven Caulker and Gary Medel for a combined transfer fee that is thought to be more than 26 million pounds.

John Brayford and Simon Moore, who joined from Derby County and Brentford respectively, are also new arrivals at a club that won three of its five first-team preseason friendlies.

But it has been a player who was at the club last term who has made the biggest impact in preseason, with South Korean winger Kim Bo-Kyung scoring in three of those matches.

Fraizer Campbell and Peter Whittingham have netted twice, while the experienced Craig Bellamy has also impressed and is sure to be an important player for the club this season.

Defender Andrew Taylor is suspended for the Upton Park fixture, while doubts continue over an ankle injury suffered by Cornelius.

West Ham is likely to field new signing Stewart Downing in his first match for the club since signing from Liverpool on Tuesday. The winger, 29, has won 34 caps for England but has seen his career stall at Anfield, and will surely welcome the change of scenery in East London.

"I'm very excited. It's a great opportunity for me and a great club. I'm ready and I'm fit for the first game against Cardiff," Downing told reporters.

Another former Liverpool player, Andy Carroll, has been Sam Allardyce's biggest signing over the offseason, but he is unlikely to feature in this fixture due to a persistent heel injury.

Spanish goalkeeper Adrian and Romanian defender Razvan Rat have also joined on free transfers from Real Betis and Shakhtar Donetsk, respectively.

The Hammers have also enjoyed a busy preseason, playing in 10 first-team friendlies, winning eight of them.

The form of English midfielder Ravel Morrison has been most encouraging, with the 20-year-old – who left Manchester United due to discipline problems – scoring six goals. It is the sort of form that has seen England manager Roy Hodgson admit to keeping tabs on him, and the attacker could be involved on Saturday as he looks to make the most of his second chance.

George McCartney (knee) is sure to miss out for the hosts, who are also sweating on the fitness of defender James Collins (knee). Collins, a Wales international and former Cardiff player, will surely relish the opportunity to play if possible.

The two sides have only played each other eight times since 1981, with West Ham victorious in five of them. That includes both legs of the Championship playoff semifinal in 2012, which the Hammers won 5-0 on aggregate en route to promotion.

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