Bristol City arrive at the Madejski Stadium in indifferent form, with two wins, two draws and two losses in their last six games, so will be hoping to add to their victories and take home the three points when they travel to face a struggling Royals side.
So how can Reading hurt Lee Johnson’s side on Saturday? Well, goalkeeper Anssi Jaakkola will need to be on his toes - City have the second most shots on target per game in the Championship (5.5) even if they don’t convert many of them - 22nd placed Reading have one more league goal (19) than 11th placed Bristol City (18).
If we do manage to keep them quiet, we should be able to catch them on the break; no side in the Championship has conceded more goals on the counter than Lee Johnson’s side (2). If we can get the likes of Garath McCleary, Yakou Meite, Josh Sims and others forward at pace, we could cause The Robins’ defence some serious issues (depending on if we can actually take our opportunities).
However, the visitors have a good record at defending from other types of chances. Only three teams have conceded fewer times from open play than City (9), and the same number for set piece goals (3).
Lee Johnson normally sets his side up in a 4-4-2 formation, keeping it simple and old-school, but also keeping the side balanced so there’s no areas of the pitch left short of numbers. Several injuries to goalkeepers have left the Robins in a difficult position, with 22 year-old Max O’Leary most likely to keep his place between the sticks.
If I were a betting man, I would put my money on Johnson keeping the back four mostly the same; just bringing in Jay Dasilva for Lloyd Kelly. He will be alongside Jack Hunt, Tomas Kalas and Adam Webster. Niclas Eliasson, Josh Brownhill, Marlon Pack and Callum O’Dowda will play in front of them in the midfield, with Jamie Paterson and Famara Diedhiou leading the line for the Bristolians.
Neither of the two strikers have been in great form so far this season, with a combined total of just four goals between them. A lot of The Robins’ goals have been coming from midfield though, so the Royals will have to be wary of that and don’t let the midfielders escape their thoughts while defending, therefore leaving them in threatening positions.
Unfortunately, I can only see this fixture going one way, and that’s with The Robins taking the three points back down the M4 to Bristol. Reading have been struggling for results recently (ignoring a surprising victory over Millwall) and I don’t think that will change this weekend. I’m going with 3-1 to the Robins. They will score at least one, possibly two, goals from set-pieces, and the other(s) will be from shocking defending and Reading being sliced open. Could The Robins be the team to end Paul Clement’s tenure?