Danny Gabbidon says his former side Cardiff City are the best team in the Championship going into the final nine games of the season.
Neil Warnock`s side are on a run of seven consecutive wins in the second tier and sit just behind Nuno Santo Espirito`s Wolves, whose title as champions-elect has come into question in recent weeks, with their lead having been cut to just three points.
Four successive wins during a torrid festive period saw the Bluebirds` potential to achieve automatic promotion to the Premier League for the first time since 2014, but since the 2-1 defeat to QPR on New Year`s Day, Warnock`s side are yet to taste defeat since.
Though the job is far from complete - with upcoming crunch clashes with Derby, Aston Villa and Wolves - Gabbidon believes that the club`s fate at the conclusion of the season lies solely in their hands.
Speaking on EFL Matters on Thursday, he said: They are the best in the division for me at the minute. I think everybody thought around Christmas time that they`d blown their chances of promotion, but they`ve come back ever so strongly - I think they`ve put themselves into a fantastic position.
Obviously there`s a long way to go, some big games to come, but it`s for them to throw away now really. I think the play-offs would have been a brilliant aim at the start of the season and that`s probably what Neil Warnock was looking at, but to be in the automatic places now, seven points ahead of Villa in third, it is definitely on the cards.
Cardiff have been criticised for their approach to games, favouring direct, physical style over the flair other clubs opt for and though it can provide little entertainment at times, the 38-year-old has praised its success in south Wales.
It`s about doing the basics well. You have to defend against them; they are physical, imposing and they have the best defence in the Championship. They aren`t worried about possession stats and the opposition having the ball, it`s what you do with the possession.
They make you defend, put the ball into the right areas and they can beat you in so many different ways, be it with set-pieces, pace and power on the counter-attack, and they`ve been keeping clean sheets for fun all season, which is why they are where they are.
Once Cardiff get in front, they are a very difficult team to pin back - they`ve been doing that all season.
Fellow guest Garry Birtles played under the Bluebirds` boss at Nottingham County for a short spell in the late 1980s and though Warnock allowed him to leave the club, his decisive nature was respected by the former Manchester United forward.
He said: He`s a great decision maker - he was my manager at the back end of my career at Notts County in 1989. He came in, didn`t fancy me at all and I don`t blame him because I was in my early 30s at that point.
He thought I`d shot it and made the decision to let me go. I thought I still had a bit more to give and I went and won two consecutive promotions with Grimsby, but he went on to do great things with Notts County.
I think it`s so important to get the right characters in your dressing room and, to be fair to Neil, he`s always done that throughout his career. He sets his teams up beautifully: they sing from the same hymn sheet, they all know their jobs out there, they are very strong, very organised and difficult to beat.
Don`t miss the Sky Bet Championship clash between Derby and Cardiff, live on Sky Sports Football on Sunday morning from 11.30am.
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