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Reading FC vs Fulham: Match Preview

Will we see a repeat of the heroics of last season’s Play-Off semi-final victory?

Photo by Harry Trump/Getty Images

After kicking off the season with a disappointing 2-0 defeat to Ian Holloway’s QPR, a response against League One outfit Gillingham in the Carabao Cup on Tuesday night was vital, and Jaap Stam’s men did just that.

A youthful Royals side coasted to a comfortable 2-0 win, thanks to a second half brace from Liam Kelly, with the result helping put that opening day defeat behind us. Now all eyes turn to Saturday’s clash with Fulham, who are many fans’ pick for automatic promotion, where Stam will be looking to get points on the board ahead of a tough Tuesday night clash with Aston Villa.

Reading FC

Form (all comps): L/W

An opening day humbling and injury crisis have made a tricky encounter even tougher than it looked before, but The Royals will be buoyed by the return of Stephen Quinn, who impressed off the bench against Gillingham in midweek. Whilst he may not be ready for a full 90 minutes, there’s no reason he shouldn’t feature at some point.

Tiago Ilori returns from suspension after serving a one-match ban for a tactical foul against QPR, which resulted in a Rangers penalty and red card for the Portuguese defender. He could well be competing with Paul McShane for a starting berth, who has served his suspension and is back in contention.

We still await news on the extent of Garath McCleary and Jordan Obita’s injuries, and Joey van den Berg remains sidelined but is close to a return. Roy Beerens, Callum Harriott and summer signing Jon Dadi Bodvarsson are all out through injury.

Andy Rinomhota and Axel Andresson impressed against Gillingham, but a start against such high-profile opposition may be a step too far. Expect to see Tyler Blackett fill in at LWB once more after Omar Richards picked up a knock on Tuesday night.

Fulham

Form (all comps): D/W

Reading target Nelson Oliveira scored a last minute equaliser for Norwich last weekend to deny The Cottagers three points on the opening day, but a routine 2-0 victory over League Two outfit Wycombe Wanderers only strengthens their claim as one of the most attractive teams in the Championship this season.

A hamstring injury kept keeper Marcus Bettinelli out of the two opening games and he’s unavailable for this weekend too, so another former Reading target in David Button will start in goal for The Whites.

Summer signing Aboubakar Kamara will be hoping for a start up top, with Slavisa Jokanovic potentially reluctant to start Sone Aluko against the side he could well be set to join this summer amid an ongoing transfer saga.

Tom Cairney remains the biggest threat in Fulham’s arsenal and he could be reunited with midfield partner Kevin MacDonald, who has recovered from a calf problem to rejoin the squad. He will have to fight former Reading man Ollie Norwood for a starting spot, who joined the London club on loan from Brighton for the season.

What do the stats say?

Fortress Madejski?

The Royals lost just twice at home last season (0-1 vs QPR, 1-2 vs Aston Villa), and haven’t lost a weekend home game for well over a year. Additionally, Reading are unbeaten in their last five home games against The Whites, but fell to a 5-0 away defeat last season.

Play-Off Revenge?

Slavisa Jokanovic will be looking for revenge for his side’s defeat in last year’s Championship Play-Off semi finals. The Royals drew 1-1 away at Craven Cottage, banishing the demons of the 5-0 defeat earlier in the campaign, before a Yann Kermorgant penalty earned us a 1-0 victory and trip to Wembley. We won’t speak about the last bit…

Familiar opponents

Reading and Fulham were the only sides in the Championship to play each other 5 times throughout the season. Reading’s home tie was fogged off at the back end of December at half time with the score at 0-0, meaning the game had to be replayed. The Royals won the replay 1-0, with some late heroics from Ali Al-Habsi denying Chris Martin a 90th minute equaliser from the spot.

What about the history?

Head to Head

Reading: 18

Draw: 15

Fulham: 20

Past 5 Meetings

16 May 2017: Reading 1-0 Fulham (EFL Championship PO Semi Final)

13 May 2017: Fulham 1-1 Reading (EFL Championship PO Semi Final)

24 January 2017: Reading 1-0 Fulham (EFL Championship)

03 December 2016: Fulham 5-0 Reading (EFL Championship)

05 March 2016: Reading 2-2 Fulham (EFL Championship)

Classic Meeting

Reading 0-2 Fulham, 12th April 2008, Madejski Stadium

Goals from American international Brian McBride and Erik Nevland gave Fulham their first away win in 18 months – a run spanning 33 away matches – and sent The Royals on their way to relegation from the top flight, after a historic eighth place finish the previous season in their first ever Premier League campaign.

The visitors went into the game knowing anything other than a win would virtually seal their relegation to the Championship, but a 2-0 victory saw Reading dragged further into the relegation dogfight from which they would not emerge.

Reading started slowly and looked nervous on in possession, with the threat of relegation looming over them, and crumbled to a 2-0 defeat which could have ultimately been worse – Fulham hit the woodwork three times. With just four games left following the defeat, then-manager Roy Hodgson helped lead a miraculous escape at our expense.

How can I follow the game?

There will be audio coverage of the game on BBC Berkshire at 104.4FM and on iFollow, for subscribed watchers abroad.

Prediction

Historically, this fixture swings in Reading’s favour, which is cause for optimism, but the injury crisis has left this squad in the lurch and the opening day defeat has exposed the flaws that still exist in this system.

My heart heads towards a 1-1 draw here, but my head says this will be a much tougher encounter than in previous years. It will be a long afternoon for The Royals and Stam will need to get his tactics spot on for us to pull off a result, but in the wake of disappointing performances last season, this side found a way to pull through and I have faith that Stam and his side can pull off another upset here. 1-1.

Do you agree with our prediction? Let us know by taking part in the poll below and by leaving us a comment with your thoughts!

Poll

Who will come out on top between Reading and Fulham?

This poll is closed

  • 16%
    Reading
    (12 votes)
  • 21%
    Draw
    (15 votes)
  • 61%
    Fulham
    (44 votes)
71 votes total Vote Now