With Valentine’s Day fast approaching, can Reading fans rekindle their love and faith in Jaap Stam as the side travel up north to play a rejuvenated Middlesbrough side? Or will they come back with broken hearts?
When both sides meet in October, Reading were still reeling from the loss of Danny Williams as ‘Boro dominated in the midfield and ran out 2-0 winners. Despite that win the Gary Monk love affair with Middlesbrough fizzled out as the club failed to push into the top six as expected by their fans and board.
Now Reading face a similar crossroad with the pressure mounting on Stam with the club in 18th place and can only move up one space with a win.
Form (all competitions): WLLWL
Last week’s disappointment against Millwall saw Tommy Elphick sustain an injury which leaves Stam with the choice of either bringing back Tyler Blackett to cover or playing Chris Gunter out of position. At this stage of Stam’s survival to stay in the job he will likely experiment in order to churn out a result.
Bödvarsson still remains a good choice to start up top after his recent scoring run and Mo Barrow has been threatening to return to the goal sheet with his impressive dribbles. The team shows signs of regaining their confidence that has often been missing for large parts of the season.
But Reading’s away performances in recent months have been their Achilles heel with dropping vital points at Bristol City and Sheffield Wednesday to name. So, it will be an interesting development if they deviate from a simple formation or risk everything to get an unfancied three points.
Top goalscorer: Jón Dadi Bödvarsson, 8 (all comps)
Form (all competitions): LWLDL
The Tony Pulis-inspired revival of ‘Boro since sacking Gary Monk in December has slightly lost steam with disappointing results against Norwich, Sheffield Wednesday & Fulham. However, they sit ninth in the league due to the fact ‘Boro still possess a formidable squad which Monk had assembled with Adama Traore & Britt Assomabologna being dominant presences in the side.
They also welcome new arrival Muhammed Besic on loan from Everton would could add a new dynamic to the midfield. Striker Rudy Gestede returns for Boro after his ban for his Red card against Norwich was overturned.
Top goalscorer: Britt Assombalonga, 12 (all comps)
- Middlesbrough have won the last 13 times in the league they have scored first.
- Reading have surpassed the same amount of defeats as the entire of last season total of 13 by one with their loss to Millwall last week.
- Jón Dadi Bödvarsson has replaced Mo Barrow as top goalscorer for the Royals with eight and has scored five out of the last six goals in 2018.
How can I follow the game?
Audio coverage is on BBC Radio Berkshire at 104.4, but not available online. Coverage is also available on the EFL iFollow service but no video coverage will be streaming the game. Full match highlights will be available on the app after the game.
Reading Football Club will post highlights of the game on their respected social media pages and YouTube channel.
Both sides on paper have the potential to either run away with the game due to the quality of the players at their disposal. However, they are both very similar with having tendencies to throw away crucial chances and live off scraps in terms of finishing chances.
‘Boro as the home team and the favourites have all the pressure firmly on them which could enable Reading to go under the radar with their preparation. But as we have known from previous weeks, Reading’s tactics have not differed from last year so they have the potential to be found out quickly.
Or they finally pay off as we saw at Derby earlier in the season. I see this being a tight game with the game being very edgy first half as both sides will know that getting an early goal could swing the game in their favour.