Reading go into their first game after the international break with a new managerial appointment, but Mark Bowen’s transition from sporting director to manager hasn’t been a popular decision. Could this be the perfect time for Preston North End to come down to Berkshire and take all three points?
Concede early on and I have a horrible feeling that the atmosphere at the Madejski Stadium will turn toxic. This may be one of Reading’s most important games in recent history. With a win, attitudes could change. With a loss, well, I don’t even want to think about it.
Here’s everything you need to know ahead of the visit of Alex Neil’s Preston North End.
What? Championship Matchday 12
Who? Preston North End
Where? Madejski Stadium
When? Saturday 19th October 2019 (3pm KO)
One point out of a possible 15: that’s where Reading stand at the moment. Will that form change now we have a new manager? I’m not so sure. This appointment is either going to turn out brilliantly or it’s going to be a complete disaster. There’s no inbetween for me, let’s just hope it’s the former, but sadly I think it’s going to be the latter. Please prove me wrong Mark Bowen!
John Swift could return to the matchday squad this weekend after serving a one-match suspension for his red card against Fulham before the international break. He has been one of Reading’s best players so far this season and will continue to be an important asset to the squad throughout this season. Hopefully he can stay fit.
However, Lucas Joao won’t be available. The striker has been in Dubai in the run-up to the Preston game, and it doesn’t look like he’ll be back in time.
Not expecting Lucas Joao to feature for #ReadingFC tomorrow, has been out with fitness coach Rui Santos in Dubai all week and a video on Instagram just now confirms he's still out there.— Marc Mayo (@ThatMarcMayo) October 18, 2019
Preston North End: WWDDW
Preston’s 18 points out of a possible 24 shows that there’s currently a gulf in class between the two sides. Their 5-1 home win against Barnsley just before the international break will give them great confidence that they will be able to go on and get the victory at the Madejski Stadium on Saturday. If they do win in Berkshire on Saturday, it will only be their second away win of the season. They have won one, drawn two and lost two on their travels so far in this campaign.
Louis Moult remains a long-term injury woe after damaging his cruciate ligament and won’t be available until 2020. Josh Earl, who has been out of action since August, is also nearing a return to fitness. He will be hoping to make the most out of his loan at League One side Bolton Wanderers, who face an uphill battle to avoid the drop.
The last meeting
Reading 2-1 Preston North End
A fantastic ball from John Swift in to the left channel allowed Mo Barrow to deliver a low cross to the far post for Yakou Meite to open the scoring. A poor backpass from Ben Davies caused confusion between Jordan Storey and goalkeeper Declan Rudd, something which Barrow pounced on to make it 2-0 to Reading by half time. It would have been 3-0 if Ovie Ejaria’s effort wasn’t saved by Rudd.
Although Jayden Stockley’s injury-time consolation caused a few nerves right at the end of the game for the home fans, it wasn’t enough to prevent a vital Reading win. This pulled Reading four points clear of the relegation zone going in to April’s fixtures.
- Reading have won their past three fixtures against Preston North End.
- If the Royals concede on Saturday, they will have kept a clean sheet just 1/6 of their games so far in this league season.
- Preston North End are unbeaten in their past eight league games.
- However, they have kept a clean sheet in just one of their five away games this season. This came at St Andrews against Birmingham City.
With Mark Bowen having featured once for Reading as a player in 1999, Olly went back through the history books for the matchday programme to see who else made just a solitary appearance for the Royals.
Likely Reading lineup: Rafael, Blackett, Moore, Miazga, Yiadom, Pele, Rinomhota, Ejaria, Boye, Meite, Puscas
Rafael has been reasonably solid in between the sticks for the Royals this season, despite being at fault for Fulham’s fourth goal earlier on in the month. Tyler Blackett may also be preferred at left back as opposed to Jordan Obita, with Bowen looking to be as defensively solid as possible in the first game. Although Chris Gunter has been brought back in to the first team mix, I still think Yiadom will be preferred over the Welshman.
Liam Moore and Matt Miazga may also start together in a back four, as they look to regain that great partnership that helped the Royals escape relegation last season. Miazga could prove to be an integral part of the squad this season. Captain Moore also needs to step up to the plate.
You must think I’m mad for leaving Swift out of the starting lineup. The first thing that Mark Bowen will be seeking from the side on Saturday is defensive solidity. Playing two central defensive midfielders to protect the back four could really help Reading this weekend. Ovie Ejaria is likely to start in a more advanced position in front of the pair.
I also have a feeling that Bowen will opt for width on Saturday to bring something different to the side. Boye and Meite could switch wings on Saturday, giving Reading a different option going forward. Up top, you can’t help but think that Puscas will be given another go as Reading’s marquee signing this summer.
Do I think Reading will pick up their first points under our new manager? Not this weekend. Alex Neil’s side are in good form and the atmosphere is unlikely to be joyous at the Madejski Stadium.
Score Prediction: Reading 0-1 Preston North End
Other Championship fixtures
All Saturday 19th October (3pm KO) unless stated
Cardiff City vs Sheffield Wednesday (Friday 18th September 7:45pm KO)
Blackburn Rovers vs Huddersfield Town (12:30pm)
Barnsley vs Swansea City
Brentford vs Millwall
Charlton Athletic vs Derby County
Hull City vs Queens Park Rangers
Leeds United vs Birmingham City
Luton Town vs Bristol City
Middlesbrough vs West Bromwich Albion
Stoke City vs Fulham
Wigan Athletic vs Nottingham Forest (Sunday 20th October 2pm KO)