Another week, another six pointer? In what is becoming an all too familiar occurrence for Royals fans, Reading’s visit to the City Ground will be one enshrouded by whispers of ‘must win’, murmurs of unrest and fears that another defeat could send the side hurtling towards a place within the Championship’s bottom three.
Having returned from their Spanish warm weather training camp on Saturday, the Royals players will be all too aware of the frosty atmosphere currently circulating amongst fans. It is an atmosphere that only a result, and indeed, a big performance against Aitor Karanka’s men, will go any way towards thawing.
Form (all comps): DLWLL
With Tuesday night’s game against Forest the first in a run of six matches in 18 days, a run that features fixtures against Derby, Sheffield United, Leeds and Wolves, the Royals will know the importance of picking up points against the teams around them ahead of the final run-in.
One win in their last five means that Jaap Stam’s Reading are as close to the relegation zone as they are to Forest, who rest just one place and four points above the Royals in 17th.
Reading’s precarious position is made all the more difficult with an increasingly extensive injury list limiting Stam’s options ahead of Tuesday night. Absences for club captain Paul McShane, loan signing Tommy Elphick and Jordan Obita mean Stam may have to call upon Tyler Blackett once again to sure up a threadbare Royals’ backline, whilst John Swift also remains sidelined in midfield.
Form (all comps): LLLLD
Unlike the Royals, Forest did react to their league struggles with a managerial change, with former Boro boss Aitor Karanka now taking the helm at the City Ground following Mark Warburton’s departure. Much like the Royals however, they are continuing to struggle at the foot of the table and come into Tuesday night’s game on a poor run of form.
No win in five means that the honeymoon period is most certainly over for the former Real Madrid centre-back, who will look to the fixture against Reading as a chance to quell any chatter regarding his side’s slide towards an unwanted relegation battle.
However, Forest also find themselves in the midst of an injury crisis due a sickness bug sweeping through the City Ground. Michael Mancienne missed the weekend’s 0-0 at Burton Albion through illness, with Daryl Murphy and Apostolos Vellios also falling foul of the same ailment. Karanka will also be without Joe Worrall and Ashkan Dejagah who miss out through knee problems, whilst defender Eric Lichaj will also be absent through suspension.
With both sides in dire runs of form, Tuesday night should make for an incredibly tense affair. Given the pressure on both teams, and indeed both managers, it may be a case of two sides, too afraid to lose, simply cancelling each other out.
Forest 1-1 Reading
Who will claim the spoils at City Ground?
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Royals to bounce back with a big win!
Too close to call - it’s a draw
Forest win - and a relegation battle on our hands