The Royals travel to Bolton on Tuesday for what is a massive game in both teams’ seasons. One place and one point currently separates the two sides, and José Gomes’ side will be hoping to increase that gap before starting to put a run of wins together.
Bolton come into the game having only won one of their last five league games and have only scored three times during that period. Hopefully the Royals can capitalise on this and get their first win on the road since Preston North End in the middle of September.
This fixture is going to be a massive clash of styles with the attractive, passing style of José Gomes contrasted against the long-ball, route one style of Phil Parkinson - his Bolton side average 78 long balls per game, the joint seventh highest in the league.
Normally this season, the Royals have struggled against sides that play long balls and use their height to their advantage, but with the addition of Chelsea centre-back Matt Miazga, this shouldn’t be so much of an issue anymore. The centre back pairing of Liam Moore and Tiago Ilori has always been relatively weak in the air, but I think Moore and Miazga will link up well and form a solid partnership for the rest of the season.
Bolton’s centre-backs David Wheater and Mark Beevers have been two of the Trotters’ strongest players this season, which is understandable due to the amount of defending they’ve had to do so far. In fact, four of the top five highest-rated players on WhoScored are defensive players, which clearly shows a story of Bolton’s campaign so far.
The one player who isn’t defensive-minded on that list is forward Josh Magennis. The former Charlton man started the season very well, but has since tailed off and has only got four goals to his name (he’s still their top goal-scorer though). The Trotters will have to hope that he suddenly hits form again on Tuesday night if they wish to get anything out of the game.
I’m going with 2-0 to the Royals. They have made some excellent signings during this window and I think they will deal with the Trotters quite comfortably. In my opinion, the only hope Bolton have is from set pieces.
The Royals have clearly struggled against teams like Millwall and Middlesbrough this season (both of which are threats for set-pieces), so potentially the Trotters could profit from that. However, I’m still going to be positive and go with a Royals victory.