Happy new year to all Reading fans!
This afternoon, the Royals host Bristol City who haven’t won in their last four games. Their most recent win was a 2-1 win away to Huddersfield on the 12th December and before that, the Robins hadn’t won since a 1-0 win at home to Wolves on the 3rd November. City have lost their last three games against Reading at the Madejski Stadium and below are the key battles we should all be watching this afternoon.
Jake Cooper v Jonathan Kodjia
Due to a bit of confusing refereeing and a desperate attempt at looking for a penalty last weekend, Reading will be without centre-back Michael Hector today as he is suspended. The 23 year-old, on loan from Chelsea, was sent off after collecting two yellow cards, the second of which for simulation in Brentford’s penalty area. Therefore Jake Cooper is likely to be the man to watch at the heart of Reading’s defence. With Anton Ferdinand not even on the bench at the weekend, the former QPR man is unlikely to go straight into the first eleven even if he miraculously regains match fitness.
Jake Cooper hasn’t made a single start for the Royals this season despite making fifteen appearances last campaign. The 20 year-old has played three times in the league so far this season coming on as a substitute each time. At 6ft 4in, Cooper is a formidable obstacle to opposition forwards and it’ll be interesting to see how the youngster copes with the likes of Luke Freeman and Jonathan Kodjia.
Kodjia is Bristol City’s top scorer in the League this season with eight goals to his name. The French-Ivorian forward has also registered two assists and, according to Squawka has a shot accuracy of 45%. Bristol City have not offered much in the way of attacking prowess this season so if ever Jake Cooper is to start a game for the Royals, today is the best time for it.
Oli Norwood v Korey Smith
This season, Norwood has made 24 appearances in the league this season and Squawka gives him a rating of 3.5 stars out of a possible 5 with a performance score of 755. The Northern Ireland international has scored two goals so far with three assists. He’s created 53 chances with a massive 1147 completed pass of which an impressive 94% were sent forward.
Again according to Squawka, Korey Smith has been Bristol City’s strongest performer this term. His performance score doesn’t quite match that of Norwood’s at 387 but the former Norwich midfielder has made 21 appearances this season with no goals and one assist. He has been Bristol City’s best man on four occasions earning man of the match twice. He and his team chase what would be only a second victory in 10 attempt so expect the tough midfielder known by his former Oldham manager Lee Johnson as "as brave as a lion" to be at his best.
Hal Robson-Kanu v Aden Flint
After returning from a lengthy injury lay-off, Hal Robson-Kanu started for Reading against Blackburn last month. He then also started the 1-0 defeat away to Wolves as well as the 2-1 defeat to Brentford last week. The Welshman was favoured by manager Brian McDermott when the gaffer was previously at the club and it seems like that is to continue with the winger starting every game since his return from injury. However, the club and McDermott are likely to delve into the transfer market now that the window has opened and therefore Robson-Kanu will be looking to impress.
The man from Bristol City standing in the way of a possible impressive display is former Swindon Town defender Aden Flint. The 25 year-old is Bristol City’s best performing defender so far this season with a performance score of 279 in 23 appearances. His team haven’t been good defensively so don’t be surprised by his lowly 2 stars out of 5 performance rating. However, City know they’re underdogs so we can expect them to have plenty of men behind the ball when defending.
Bristol City have kept just one clean sheet in their last 16 trips to Reading so it’ll be the best chance for the Royals to get back to winning ways after a disappointing end to a year of mediocrity. McDermott and his men have a lot to prove in 2016 and if they start with another disappointing performance this afternoon, the fans will most certainly be unforgiving.