Reading have a great chance to pick up points this midweek against a Barnsley side who currently sit bottom of the Championship table.
Despite having this great opportunity, the Royals need to avoid complacency as they creep ever closer to the dreaded relegation zone. A disappointing 3-2 home loss against Birmingham City was a setback, although they have the perfect chance to bounce back at Oakwell.
Here’s everything you need to know ahead of Wednesday evening’s tie in Yorkshire, with both sides aiming to avoid relegation this season.
What? Championship Matchday 20
When? Wednesday 11th December 2019 (7:45pm KO)
Barnsley have endured an even tougher season than the Royals. Conceding twelve goals in the last five games has made it nearly impossible for the club to pick up many decent results. It was always going to be a big ask for the club to keep themselves up, but they still have half of the season left to escape the relegation zone.
Five Barnsley players picked up a yellow card against Cardiff City on Saturday, including centre back Aapo Halme who’s now accumulated his fifth yellow card of the season. The Finnish defender joined the club from fellow Yorkshire side Leeds United in the summer. Meanwhile, former manager Daniel Stendel has recently been appointed manager of Scottish Premiership side Hearts after being sacked by the Tykes earlier on in the season.
Is the new manager bounce over for Mark Bowen? Three losses in the past four games is a concern for Royals fans, knowing that the club isn’t too far away from the relegation zone. I dread to think what the mood would be like now if we hadn’t had made that comeback against Wigan Athletic at the DW Stadium. It’s time for the Royals to pick up as many points as possible going in to the Christmas period.
Ovie Ejaria, Jordan Obita and Sam Baldock have all missed the past couple of games, although all three could rejoin the first team squad this midweek in time for the tie against Barnsley. However, John Swift is unlikely to feature as he continues his recovery from injury. Pele could start once again in his absence.
The last meeting
Barnsley 1-1 Reading
Only two of the players who started in the December 2017 Oakwell tie started against Birmingham City on the weekend. Those players were centre back Liam Moore and winger Garath McCleary. Current Reading full-back Andy Yiadom was still at Barnsley at the time and played playedagainst the Royals that day.
A wonderful cross from Tyler Blackett was converted by Yann Kermorgant in front of the away fans as the clock approached 70 minutes. This was a game that should have taken the pressure off then-manager Jaap Stam and the Royals looked like they had gained a vital three points, before Ethan Pinnock’s header earned Barnsley a point late on.
Ike Ugbo’s effort nearly won it for the home side, who were pushing for a winner deep in to stoppage time. Only a Chris Gunter header saved the Royals who had already thrown the game away.
Both sides need to desperately pick up points from this match on Wednesday if they are to get themselves out of relegation trouble.
- Barnsley have failed to keep a clean sheet in their last 14 league games. Will Reading make it 15 on Wednesday?
- The Tykes have won 10 out of a possible 30 points at home so far in the league this season.
- Reading are unbeaten in their past four meetings against Barnsley. Their last defeat against the Yorkshire side came in March 2014 under Nigel Adkins, with the Royals suffering a 3-1 defeat at the Madejski Stadium.
- The Royals have won four, lost three and drawn one of their eight games so far under Mark Bowen.
Likely Reading lineup: Rafael, Richards, Moore, Morrison, Miazga, Yiadom, Rinomhota, Pele, Ejaria, Joao, Puscas
The switch to four at the back didn’t work out for the Royals on Saturday and the decision to take Matt Miazga off was puzzling in my opinion. Out of him, Liam Moore and Michael Morrison, I would say that the American is probably the best centre back out of the trio. He formed a great partnership with Moore at the business end of the last campaign – so why did we take him off at half time?
On paper, the centre backs look like one of the strongest defensive trios in the Championship. The fact that we’re still failing to keep clean sheets is frustrating. If we can tighten up at the back, it will only help us to climb up the table.
Omar Richards is likely to start again on Wednesday, although he could probably do with a rest after being Reading’s first-choice left wing-back for the vast majority of this campaign so far. Whether Jordan Obita will be fully fit to take his place remains to be seen - Bowen is unlikely to take any risks with him if he’s not quite ready.
Hopefully Ovie Ejaria will be available for this clash after missing the past two games. We desperately need that creativity in midfield, with Mark Bowen appearing reluctant to use the likes of Josh Barrett and Michael Olise in Ejaria’s role. Olise could be exactly the player we need, even if he comes on as an impact player. He has the energy and enthusiasm that could really contribute to the Reading cause.
Lucas Joao may come in for Yakou Meite this weekend as both the Portuguese man and Puscas look to justify their summer price tags. Sam Baldock’s absence has been a blow for the Royals. The former Brighton and Hove Albion’s contribution in Mark Bowen’s tenure so far has been important, so let’s hope he returns to the matchday squad this week.
If Reading play to their potential, they have every chance of winning this midweek match. The home defeat against Birmingham City will have knocked the players’ confidence and the fans will be looking for a response, especially those who will travel all the way up to Yorkshire on Wednesday evening. I predict a tight 1-1 draw in a game between two sides who are currently struggling.
Score prediction: Barnsley 1-1 Reading
Other Championship fixtures
Tuesday 10th December 2019 (7:45pm KO) unless stated
Bristol City vs Millwall
Charlton Athletic vs Huddersfield Town
Leeds United vs Hull City
Nottingham Forest vs Middesbrough
Preston North End vs Fulham
Stoke City vs Luton Town (8pm KO)
Wednesday 11th December 2019 (7:45pm KO) unless stated
Birmingham City vs Queens Park Rangers
Brentford vs Cardiff City
Derby County vs Sheffield Wednesday
Swansea City vs Blackburn Rovers
Wigan Athletic vs West Bromwich Albion