Matej Vydra v Nedum Onuoha
Back on deadline day at the beginning of September this year, Reading signed Czech Republic international Matej Vydra on a season-long loan, from Watford, for a massive loan fee of £2.5million. The Royals also have the option to sign Vydra permanently in the summer if they are promoted to the Premier League with a further fee of £10million. He has not yet merited his loan fee, let alone the massive fee to sign him permanently, so Vydra will have to up his game massively if he wants to stay at the club past the summer.
Vydra has made ten appearances scoring just two goals. Most fans and critics are in agreement that he has bags of talent but just hasn't really shown it yet. He scored in Reading's last fixture on Saturday in the 3-1 defeat away to Nottingham Forest but his only other goal came in the 1-1 draw at home to Brighton at the end of October. It will be interesting to see if he has the motivation to score the goals that will justify Reading's decision to splash the cash.
Nedum Onuoha has been with QPR since 2012 after joining from Manchester City. Eligible to play for the Nigerian national side, Onuoha has played 104 games for the London club scoring three goals. He has admirably formed formidable partnerships at the heart of defence with players joining and leaving left, right and centre over the years. He has been linked with a move to Sunderland in January but for now he has played down rumours. A commanding, strong central defender like Onuoha will provide a stern challenge for Vydra tomorrow evening so this is definitely one to watch.
Lucas Piazon v James Perch
This key battle is included more for its possible tactical effects on the game rather than the players' individual merits. Lucas Piazon, on paper, has played well recently. The Brazilian winger, on loan from Chelsea, has played eight times for the Royals this season scoring a helpful three goals. However, it can be argued that the 21 year-old has not done his fair share of defensive work in those games. Piazon has been on the receiving end of a lot of stick from Reading fans - some of which blame him for our disappointing loss away to Fulham earlier in the season. The argument for this is simple - Reading are way too open when defending with Piazon in the team. He may be a very good player going forward, a valuable asset indeed, but Steve Clarke just hasn't been able to find a way of bringing a balance to the midfield which would allow the team to attack well with adequate cover for the counter attack.
Take a look at Chelsea's title-winning team of last season. Whenever Fabregas, Ramires and co would go on the attack, defensive midfielder Nemanja Matic would remain deep to provide a defensive barrier to the back four. However, Hazard, Willian, Pedro or Oscar (whoever was playing as a winger) would track back when Chelsea were forced to defend. Piazon, intentionally or not, simply does not track back with opposition players. This leaves Steve Clarke's side massively exposed at the back and on numerous occasions it has led to the conceding of goals, and thus forfeiting the three points Reading fans so desperately crave. Piazon's attacking threat is therefore a dangerous asset not just to the opposition but also to his own side's defence.
James Perch on the other hand has remained solid for his team this year. Thwarting attacks, just like an in-form Chris Gunter at right-back, is his forte. The versatile player has played 12 times since joining the Rangers from Wigan in the summer and is a defensive force to be reckoned with for Lucas Piazon tomorrow evening.
Michael Hector v Charlie Austin
Michael Hector, since securing a £4million move to Premier League champions Chelsea, has been a little off his best of late. Hector was at fault on a number of occasions during the Bolton game but Reading scraped a lucky victory. The academy graduate, who spent a lot of time on loan before breaking into Reading's first team last season - no less than 11 different loan clubs -, has been awkward. With Anton Ferdinand more or less back to full fitness, Hector has strong competition for his spot at the heart of Reading's defence.
However, in the defeat at Forest at the weekend, club captain Paul McShane was forced off injured after a clash of heads. McShane's face was swollen so badly he hasn't been able to train this week and is therefore a major doubt for tomorrow's game. Therefore it is likely Clarke will chose to partner Hector with Ferdinand giving the former the chance to make good for previous sloppy performances.
The opposition forward most likely to force and capitalise on such mistakes is Charlie Austin. Released from his contract by Reading as a youth, Austin came off the bench and scored with his first touch of the ball to give his QPR side all three points against Leeds United at the weekend, giving his interim manager Neil Warnock his first win since taking temporary charge. This goal was Austin's eighth in the league this season and ended QPR's run of four games without scoring.
The 26 year-old is keen to add to his impressive 43 goals in 79 appearances for the Rangers and Hector will have to be mistake-free and at his very best to keep Austin and QPR at bay tomorrow.