LEICESTER, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 29:  Neil Warnock, manager of Cardiff City celebrates during the Premier League match between Leicester City and Cardiff City at The King Power Stadium on December 29, 2018 in Leicester, United Kingdom.  (Photo by Clive Mason/Getty Images)

Picking the Best Cardiff Starting XI for Saturday's FA Cup Clash With Gillingham

Cardiff's hammering at the hands of Tottenham just three days ago brought an intense and draining festive period to an end, and attentions now turn to League One strugglers Gillingham in the FA Cup third round. 


Neil Warnock's men can't afford to take anything for granted against their hosts - especially in the FA Cup - but if there is ever a game to rotate and give some minutes to fringe players, it's this one.


The balance between rotating the squad and fielding a team strong enough to get the win is a tricky one to find, but here is our prediction for Cardiff's starting XI against Gillingham.

1. Goalkeeper & Defenders

Alex Smithies (GK) - Neil Etheridge's stellar form has meant summer signing Smithies has barely had a look in, but a FA Cup tie against weaker opposition offers the opportunity for a rare start. 


Lee Peltier (RB) - Peltier has struggled for game time since returning from injury in October, and the trip to Gillingham is the ideal scenario to get another 90 minutes under his belt.


Sean Morrison (CB) - While heavy rotation is likely, it would come as no surprise to see Warnock stick with his captain in order to keep some continuity in the back line. 


Matt Connolly (CB) - Sol Bamba is likely to be rested, meaning Connolly could step in and make his first start since the EFL Cup defeat to Norwich in August. 


Joe Bennett (LB) - Bennett appears to have lost the fight to Greg Cunningham to start against Huddersfield next week, which suggests Bennett should start in the FA Cup clash. 

2. Midfielders

Kadeem Harris (RM) - Harris has threatened to make a serious impression at times this season, and an FA Cup tie against a lower league side could give him the platform to shine. 


Aron Gunnarsson (CM) - Similar to the defence, at least one first-team midfielder is likely to be retained to keep some continuity in the ranks, and that could fall on the solid Aron Gunnarsson. 


Joe Ralls (CM) - With Victor Camarasa picking up a knock against Tottenham, Warnock is likely to opt to give Ralls some game time over Harry Arter, who has been a regular in the Premier League


Nathaniel Mendez-Laing (LM) - The 26-year-old needs minutes under his belt to get back to match fitness after a difficult season with injuries, so it would be a surprise if he wasn't thrown in here. 

3. Forwards

Bobby Reid (ST) - It seems unlikely that Cardiff will stick with 4-5-1 against Gillingham, so Reid could start as the deeper of a two man strike force - perhaps operating as a traditional number ten - in a bid to rack up some goals. 


Callum Paterson (ST) - The 24-year-old has been impressive this season, and will likely start this weekend.