Reading will have to combat West Brom’s dangerous counter-attacks and expansive wide play if they wish to gain anything in the Midlands. An attacking line-up of Jay Rodriguez, Dwight Gayle and Harvey Barnes would strike fear into most defences in the league, and the Royals’ back-line will face a difficult test to stop forwards who have scored 17 goals between them this season.
So how do the Baggies tend to play? Darren Moore’s side likes to keep possession and play lots of short passes, as shown by their pass completion rate of 78% and an average possession of 53.6%. West Brom are likely to dominate the ball to break down the Royals and make them chase the game, before capitalising on the gaps that are created through the middle.
However, Modou Barrow and Josh Sims will be pivotal for the Royals if we are to create chances at the Hawthorns as the Baggies are very weak whilst defending in the channels. The formation that West Brom play (3-4-1-2) gives them lots of players going forward, but could also leave them susceptible to counter-attacks. Their wing-backs: Kieran Gibbs on the left and Tyrone Mears or Matt Phillips on the right, will commit going forward and then will be out of position when the Royals get the ball back.
This is not helped by a fairly slow defensive line of Craig Dawson, Ahmed Hegazi and Kyle Bartley, so West Brom will need their wing-backs to work very hard to get back to cover for their centre-backs’ lack of pace. Speed is also not in abundance in the centre of the park for the Baggies, with Jake Livermore and Chris Brunt most likely to fill those positions. The Baggies could try to prevent the Royals from counter-attacking by slowing the game down.
‘How do I think Reading will get on?’ I hear you ask. Well, given a poor performance at home to QPR on Tuesday night and the major attacking threat that West Brom possess, I can’t see the Royals getting anything from this fixture. The Baggies are far too strong for Reading and I think they will leave 3-1 winners.
The only way Reading will be able to leave with something from the Midlands is if they can somehow stop the attacking threat of Gayle, Rodriguez and Barnes, but I can’t see that being possible. Hopefully they prove me wrong!