After our jaunt in this year’s EFL Cup came to an end against Watford on Wednesday night, the Royals now revert their focus back to the league, where they remain winless, in the bottom three and in desperate need of a first three points of the season to kick-start their campaign.
On Saturday they host Sheffield Wednesday, fellow 2016/17 play-off contenders and another side who find themselves much further down the Championship than their fans may have expected at the start of the season.
Yet a recent resurgence in Yorkshire has seen the Owls starting to soar again, meaning that Paul Clement’s side will have to produce a performance far greater than anything we have seen so far this season to get that all important win that all Reading fans are craving.
Reading have undoubtedly begun to show slightly more attacking industry and creativity since suffering consecutive defeats in their opening three games of the campaign, with points against Blackburn and a very impressive Aston Villa side helping to quell some of the recent unrest that has been beginning to fester in the RG postcode.
However, defensive frailties undoubtedly remain, as evidenced by the losing of a 2-0 lead at Ewood Park ten days ago. It will therefore come as no surprise if Clement were to bring club stalwart Chris Gunter back into the defensive fold after singing the Welshman’s praises this week, with the impressive Andy Yiadom also a possible return in the left back position. Such a move could see Tyler Blackett dropped to the bench.
Elsewhere Marc McNulty, who started against Watford as one of eight changes made by Paul Clement, is likely to be replaced by scorer of that equalising penalty against Villa Sam Baldock, who should partner leading scorer Jon Dadi Bodvarsson up top. It will be too soon for new Iranian signing Saeid Ezatolahi, who joined on loan from Rostov yesterday, to feature, as he will remain unavailable until after the upcoming international break.
As with the Royals, Wednesday also went three without a win following a sluggish start to the season, before two home wins in four days against Millwall and Ipswich restarted their faltering campaign. They’ll have confidence coming to Reading, despite a record of only two away league wins against the Royals since 1979.
Like Reading, Sheffield Wednesday rang the changes for their game against Wolves in the EFL Cup and Jos Luhakay will look to restore as much of the line up that secured those victories against Millwall and Ipswich. Selection headaches will more likely be the result of competition as opposed to injuries and suspensions, with Steven Fletcher, Adthe Nuhiu and Marco Matias battling to lead the line.
Expect midfielders Barry Bannan and Lucas Joao to also aim to make a positive impression following the new contracts that the pairing both signed this week.
The Owls are undoubtedly resurgent and the days of the Mad Stad being a fortress for the Royals (particularly on a Saturday afternoon) feel like a distant memory. Unfortunately, I fear that Wednesday could make it three league wins on the spin tomorrow, barring a dramatic upturn in fortunes and performance from Paul Clement’s men.
Royals 1-2 Wednesday
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