Two league games into the new season, and Paul Clement doesn’t seem quite sure of his strongest starting XI. Reading’s team for the opening match of the campaign went through three changes for the trip to Nottingham Forest on Saturday, and is likely to be further altered for the visit of Birmingham City in the League Cup.
After seven summer additions, the Royals have plenty of options throughout their squad who’ll want to grab their chance on Tuesday night. Paul Clement has confirmed that there will indeed be changes, but not at the expense of putting out a competitive side that can win the tie.
“In our squad there is not a massive gulf in difference in quality. I will freshen it up and play some players who didn’t play against Forest but it will certainly be a team who can win the game. It will be a good side using the squad we have used in pre-season.”
Who’s dropping out?
So far, six players have played all 180 minutes of the 2018/19 campaign: Vito Mannone, Andy Yiadom, Tiago Ilori, Paul McShane, Liam Kelly and Modou Barrow.
With Reading well-stocked in goal, at centre-half and in the middle of the park, Mannone, Ilori, McShane and Kelly are probably the most likely to drop out. However, injuries at full-back and out wide mean Yiadom and Barrow could be forced to continue,
A further seven have started one or both of the matches against Derby County and Nottingham Forest: Omar Richards, Tyler Blackett, David Meyler, Yakou Meite, John Swift, Jon Dadi Bodvarsson and Sam Baldock.
Richards or Blackett will almost certainly start - Reading don’t really have any other left-backs, whilst Meite is likely to be one of only two fit first-team wingers alongside Barrow. On the other hand, Meyler and Bodvarsson have racked up plenty of minutes so far and will likely be rotated out.
Who’s coming in?
The injured options that won’t made an appearance
Reading have an extensive injury list at the moment that currently includes: Anssi Jaakkola, Chris Gunter, Jordan Obita, Garath McCleary, Sone Aluko, Callum Harriott, Dave Edwards and Adrian Popa. None of those players are likely to be back in time for the Birmingham game.
The fringe players hoping to make an impact
Despite all those injuries, there are still plenty of first-team options that haven’t yet made a start for Reading this season. Perhaps the most obvious is Liam Moore who, after backing down on last month’s transfer request, is available for selection. However, depending on his fitness levels, he may or may not get the full 90 minutes.
Otherwise, new signings Sam Walker and John O’Shea are yet to get a minute of match action so need to get up to speed, with Leandro Bacuna, Pelle Clement and Marc McNulty all in need of practise.
Youngsters hoping to step up
With Sam Smith, Tennai Watson, Lewis Ward and Andrija Novakovich out on loan, there aren’t too many youngsters in line to make an appearance in the first team, but the closest right now is probably energetic midfielder Andy Rinomhota. With namesake Yiadom potentially needing a rest, we may see Rinomhota come in at right-back as he did in pre-season.
Elsewhere, any of Axel Andresson, Josh Barrett, Luke Southwood, Tom Holmes or Danny Loader could be involved.
Predicting the line-up
So far, Reading have lined up in a 4-4-2 or a 4-4-1-1 under Paul Clement and we’re unlikely to see a big move away from that on Tuesday night. Expect to see the back four stay in place, but perhaps with a few alterations higher up to accommodate incoming players.
Tactically, Clement could try to experiment with a midfield three that can control the middle of the pitch better than Reading have done in recent weeks. Up top, trying Baldock out as a lone striker is something that would help the team a lot - if we can make it work.
Walker; Yiadom, Moore, O’Shea, Richards; Rinomhota, Bacuna, Clement; Meite, Baldock, Barrow.
Subs: Southwood, Andresson, Blackett, Kelly, Swift, McNulty, Bodvarsson.