Just like in the aftermath of Reading’s opening day defeat to QPR, a youthful Royals side bounced back from defeat at Preston with a win in the Carabao Cup, this time over Championship rivals Millwall, with the home side running out 3-1 winners after extra time.
Academy graduates Axel Andresson, Andy Rinomhota and Sam Smith all impressed, with the former rounding off a lightning-quick counter attack in the dying embers of extra time with a composed finish past Jordan Archer to seal the victory and a first professional goal. Whether any of the trio did enough to warrant a start in the league is another question.
Form (all comps): W/W/D/L/L
The Blues currently sit 15th in the Championship on the same points tally as Reading, following a win over Bristol City and a point against Bolton. Whilst four points from twelve doesn’t seem disastrous, the fixture list has been kind to Harry Redknapp’s men. With early fixtures against Ipswich Town, Bristol City, Bolton Wanderers and Burton Albion marked as a potential twelve points, to pick up just four seems like a disappointing haul.
A strong Blues side crashed out of the cup on Tuesday, falling to a 2-1 defeat to Premier League Bournemouth, meaning Birmingham welcome Reading to St Andrew’s on the back of consecutive defeats in league and cup with their confidence shot.
The loss of talisman Che Adams to a long-term injury has left Redknapp’s men looking toothless up top, with none of Lukas Jutkiewicz, Clayton Donaldson or Isaac Vassell looking like a regular goal threat. David Davis made his return from injury in midweek and should be fit to feature on the weekend.
Form (all comps): W/D/W/L/W
A 1-0 defeat wasn’t the only setback for Jaap Stam at Deepdale last weekend, with playmaker John Swift subbed off during the first half with a hamstring problem that will keep him out for at least a month. Midfield partner Liam Kelly was also withdrawn within half an hour with a dead leg, but Stam confirmed in the week that the Irishman should be fit to play this weekend.
With no new striker on the horizon, Joseph Mendes was rested in midweek. His replacement for the Millwall clash was academy graduate Sam Smith, who seized his chance and made up for an earlier miss by latching onto a pinpoint George Evans pass deep into extra time before driving forward and slotting past Jordan Archer in the Millwall goal. It’s unlikely Stam will throw Smith into the starting eleven, but he may have done enough to make the bench.
Jon Dadi Bodvarsson and Yann Kermorgant both remain sidelined with knee and hip problems respectively, however Garath McCleary and Stephen Quinn saw action in midweek and could be selected to make the trip up to Birmingham. Roy Beerens missed both encounters due to personal problems, but could also make his return on Saturday.
What do the stats say?
Troubles on our Travels
The Royals have lost 14 of their 26 away games since Jaap Stam took the reins at Reading, including both of our away ties so far this season. With teams having the confidence to press higher up the pitch against us whilst at home, there are severe doubts as to whether Stam’s possession philosophy works away from home. The Dutchman needs to address our away woes urgently.
A Tight Encounter
Of Reading’s last eleven games against The Blues, seven have been decided by a single goal. This tie is typically a tight encounter, with The Royals coming out on top of this fixture last season. A late John Swift goal gave Reading a 1-0 win and put them within three points off the top two last time. Let’s hope for a repeat on Saturday.
Problems up Top
Neither Birmingham nor Reading have seen a striker score a goal in the league yet. Reading have relied on Modou Barrow and Liam Kelly for goals this season, whilst lively winger Jacques Maghoma has been vital for Birmingham, scoring two of their three league goals.
What about the history?
Head to Head
Past 5 Meetings
22 April 2015: Reading 0-1 Birmingham City(EFL Championship)
08 August 2015: Birmingham City 2-1 Reading (EFL Championship)
09 April 2016: Reading 0-2 Birmingham City (EFL Championship)
13 September 2016: Reading 0-0 Birmingham City (EFL Championship)
31 January 2017: Birmingham City 0-1 Reading (EFL Championship)
Birmingham City 6-1 Reading, 13th December 2014, St Andrews Stadium
Breakthrough star Demarai Gray netted a first half hat-trick as The Blues ran rampant against a dire Reading side, scoring six goals before the turn of the hour mark to help the Midlands club leapfrog The Royals and climb into 15th in the Championship table.
The game marked the end of Nigel Adkins’ tenure as Reading manager. He was sacked after the game and would go on to be replaced by former Chelsea assistant manager Steve Clarke.
Paul Caddis, Andrew Shinnie and David Cotterill also got on the scoresheet, whilst Glenn Murray grabbed what turned out to be a consolation goal for Reading after 19 minutes. Of the side that lost 6-1, only Chris Gunter, Garath McCleary and Jordan Obita remain at the club.
How can I follow the game?
There will be audio coverage of the game on BBC Berkshire at 104.4FM.
With Birmingham in a poor run of form and heading into the game off the back of consecutive defeats, Reading will be facing a side with much less confidence than the Preston and QPR sides that have comfortably dispatched us away from home this season. The absence of a regular goal threat is cause for concern, but with Garath McCleary getting back to fitness and Modou Barrow and Adrian Popa forming an effective partnership out wide, we have enough in our Arsenal to trouble a fairly average Birmingham side. 2-1 Reading win.
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Who will come out on top between Birmingham and Reading?
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