Tomorrow evening the Royals host Plymouth Argyle at the Madejski Stadium in the newly named EFL Cup, and with Saturday's impressive win against Preston, many fans, including myself, are eager for more.
It is no secret that the League Cup has never been a priority for Reading, with focus usually firmly set on the league and FA Cup. This allows an excellent platform for the youngsters to showcase their talent and challenge for that prized first team spot.
So why not give the youth a chance? It would be great to see and boast our squad depth. I, myself would like to see a few youngsters get a run out along with a few other summer signings yet to prove themselves; an equal blend of youth and (moderate) experience. So, with that being said, here are some of my thoughts on how the Royals should line up tomorrow night.
Ali Al-Habsi, our player of the year last term, had a relatively quiet game against Preston on Saturday, enjoying a comfortable game in-between the sticks, albeit a dropped cross that may have turned the outcome of the match against Reading's favour. We can expect to see the Oman international hold down that number one spot for the majority of the campaign, which is why I would like to see summer signing, Anssi Jaakkola, start tomorrow night.
The Finnish stopped joined the Royals from Ajax Cape Town, and admitted "I know he [Al-Habsi] is a great goalkeeper. I’m looking forward to pushing him and pushing myself to fight for the number one jersey". Hopefully, this competition for places at the keeper position can really spur on both parties.
As for the defence, I expect to see a heavy rotation, with Jordan Obita’s injury he will likely be rested which will pave the way, hopefully, for Tennai Watson’s full debut. Chris Gunter will then be pushed across to the left side, where he played with comfort for a large chunk of Saturday's game.
For the centre-back pairing, it may be an ambitious claim but I would like to see Zak Jules and Jake Cooper partnered together, as to give Joey van den Berg and Paul McShane a breather. It will be interesting to see whether Cooper’s inconsistency is a trait of the past or is still an aspect of his game to worry about. Danzell Gravenberch and Niall Keown are also in with a shout to start or at least play a portion of the game.
The midfield three played a pivotal role in the opening win against Preston, with John Swift scoring the only goal of the game with a superbly worked corner routine, while George Evans and Danny Williams played solid roles in the middle.
Many wanted to see Liam Kelly play a part in the game considering his involvement in pre-season, I feel he deserves a run-out against Argyle where he could really influence the game with his marvellous passing abilities and tricky set-pieces.
Aaron Kuhl and Evans both offer something different, the team could really use Evans presence in front of the defence and Kuhl’s busy nature and excellent work rate can allow Kelly to stride forward into opposition territory and really do some damage. This, essentially, meaning that they should all compliment each others playing style, but whether Stam see’s Kuhl being in his plans, is too early too tell.
Deniss Rakels seemed to really struggle up front on his own against Preston, however, his work-rate and energy levels cannot be questioned. I think a more physical presence will be needed against Plymouth, as when it comes to playing lower league opposition, more often than not we usually get mixed up in their style of play and route one football ensues.
This being said Yann Kermorgant would be a perfect fit to lead the line with experience and he possesses the ability to pitch in with a goal or two. His physical presence would benefit the team as a whole and offer a different dynamic.
On the wings, It is likely we will see Callum Harriott make his full debut after his lively 20-minute stint gave us all a small impression of what he’s capable of. Yakou Meite is a player I’m unsure about, I would love to be proved wrong and I think tomorrow's game is a perfect opportunity to do just that.
Personally, I would like to see Tarique Fosu and Jack Stacey feature, but with neither of the two being assigned squad numbers, it seems they are destined to be sent out on loan once again.