For only the third time this season, Reading will have the opportunity to face a side beneath them in the table as they welcome Championship newboys Luton to the Mad Stad. Following the appointment of new boss Graeme Jones in the summer, the Hatters have had a somewhat poor start to the season, sitting one point below the Royals in the table.
Despite nine defeats, Luton have shown that they are equally adept at winning on their travels as in their own backyard, managing two wins both home and away.
In the pre-match build up, Royals boss Mark Bowen has said that he doesn’t want Saturday afternoon to end up like a basketball game, highlighting the fact that the Hatters have scored in all but three of their games this season while keeping just one clean sheet.
Luton line up in a narrow 4-1-2-1-2, with top goalscorers James Collins and Harry Cornick (five goals each) providing their main attacking threat up top. However, Luton do have depth up front, something showed by their recent outing at Birmingham City where they opted for wide men Callum McManaman and Kazenga LuaLua up front, seemingly looking to play on the counter.
Reading’s centre-halves will certainly have to be at their best, with both physical and pacy threats an option for the Hatters, who could also mix up their frontline and start with any combination.
Due to Reading lining up in a 3-5-2 with wing-backs and two holding midfielders, Luton can easily push their holding midfielders back into their defence and match up with the home side if they opt to. It will be interesting to see if they do try this, especially as their full-backs are more than happy to get up the pitch due to them already being the only wide players in their side (much like Reading).
In their last game, a 2-1 defeat to Nottingham Forest, centre-back Martin Cranie was occupying this holding position, which further suggests the approach they may take.
A team who can score goals but also concede them, Luton are an unknown quantity to most Royals fans and will most likely look to play on the counter while also possessing the ability to come into the game and play, thanks to the likes of Pelly Ruddock and Izzy Brown in the middle.
With James Shea replacing the error-prone Simon Sluga in goal but not able to quite paper over the cracks of their defensive errors, Reading should have enough to get past the Hatters and a solid defensive display will once again be key and the basis to build on for Mark Bowen’s men on Saturday.