Another bottom-half Championship clash awaits the Royals as they head north to Staffordshire to face Michael O’Neill’s Stoke City.
A disappointing 1-1 draw at bottom-of-the-table Barnsley halted the Royals in their quest of dragging themselves away from the relegation zone and will face a huge task in winning all three points this weekend. Stoke City have also struggled majorly this season and still sit in the relegation zone at the moment.
Here’s everything you need to know ahead of this important tie between Reading and the Potters this weekend.
What? Championship Matchday 21
Who? Stoke City
Where? Bet356 stadium
When? Saturday 14th December 2019 (3pm KO)
Stoke City: WLLLW
This has been a torrid season so far for Stoke City fans, although the promising appointment of Michael O’Neill could help the club to climb up the Championship table. Although they sit in the relegation zone, another win this weekend to build on their momentum from the Luton Town victory in midweek could put them in a great position for the new year.
Peter Etebo continues to build his way back up to full fitness after recovering from a thigh injury that has kept him out of numerous games in the past month, although it’s unclear whether he will feature in the matchday squad this weekend. Defenders Nathan Collins and Ryan Shawcross both made the squad against Luton Town on Tuesday, with the latter starting the match after suffering a horrendous ankle injury against Leicester City in pre-season which has kept him out of action until this month.
It’s getting to the stage where we really need to start picking up points in this busy Christmas period. We have three winnable games coming up, starting against Stoke City. Fixtures against Derby County and QPR at the Madejski Stadium are also good opportunities for the Royals to add points to their Championship tally going in to the new decade. However, if we played like we did in midweek, we won’t be getting the points we have the potential to get.
Andy Yiadom is set to be out for six weeks, although John Swift is doing well on his recovery from injury and could potentially make the squad this Saturday. Despite this, he’s unlikely to play from the start at the bet365 stadium if he does make it back in time. Ovie Ejaria and Sam Baldock are also available after struggling with recent injuries. The midfielder started in midweek, while Baldock made it on to the bench.
The last meeting
Stoke City 0-0 Reading
Youngster Michael Olise started for the Royals in the tie in March this year. Callum Harriott, who had a torrid time with injury during his time in Berkshire, also started this game, although he could not make the impact needed to help Reading get all three points.
Both Tom Ince and Sam Vokes struck the woodwork for the home side as they dominated large periods of the match, with Garath McCleary going closest for Reading with a low drive just wide of the post.
After this fixture, Reading sat just one point above the relegation zone and Rotherham United and were in real danger of dropping to League One. Let’s hope we don’t have to engage in another relegation scrap this season. Although we’re currently five points clear at the moment, that gap could quickly close and that’s the last thing we need.
- In the eight games previous to their 3-0 win over Luton Town in midweek, Stoke City had not kept a clean sheet. Is there a chance for the Royals to capitalise on this at the weekend?
- The Potters failed to win any of their first ten league games of this campaign. This just shows how much worse the situation Stoke City could be in right now.
- Reading haven’t won any of their past five games against Stoke City. Their last win against this weekend’s opponents came in April 2006. John Halls scored a rare goal for the Royals against his former side that day.
- The Berkshire had 18 points after 20 league games last season. This season? 22 points. It’s not been a vast improvement despite our summer transfer business.
Likely Reading lineup: Rafael, Obita, Moore, Morrison, Miazga, Gunter, Rinomhota, Pele, Ejaria, Baldock, Puscas
We were very poor on Wednesday night - there’s no denying that. We need a drastic change in our performance levels if we are to come away with anything this weekend. The players that we have were more than good enough to get the three points on Tuesday, that’s what makes supporting this club so frustrating.
Liam Moore as captain needs to step up. Our central defensive trio need to start keeping clean sheets. If we can keep it tight at the back, it can only help our attacking players. Chris Gunter is more than experienced enough to give Andy Yiadom the time to recover from his injury.
The question has to be asked: is Charlie Adam capable of maintaining his performance levels for 90 minutes if he starts. Will he start two games in four days? I highly doubt it and Pele will probably be the man to replace him in John Swift’s absence. Ovie Ejaria will need to take the name by the scruff of the neck if Reading are to come away from Staffordshire with all three points.
Sam Baldock, who has been an important part of Mark Bowen’s tenure at Reading so far, will be looking to win his place back in the side after recovering from injury. If he can help to create chances for both himself and George Puscas, this could be a game-changer for the Royals.
I hate to be ‘that’ fan, but I’m not convinced that Mark Bowen is the right man to take Reading forward. The players need to take a look at themselves too, especially with the high manager turnover in recent years.
Experience needed to be the top priority when recruiting a new manager after Jose Gomes’ sacking. Unfortunately, Bowen doesn’t have the head coach experience that would be ideal. I will always support my team - but we desperately need to start picking up wins if we are to finish in a comfortable mid-table position. However, I don’t have a good feeling about this one. We may lose quite heavily this weekend if Stoke City click.
Score prediction: Stoke City 3-0 Reading
Other Championship fixtures
All Saturday 14th December 2019 (3pm KO) unless stated
Charlton Athletic vs Hull City (Friday 13th December 7:45pm KO)
Birmingham City vs West Bromwich Albion (12:30pm KO)
Barnsley vs Queens Park Rangers
Brentford vs Fulham
Bristol City vs Blackburn Rovers
Derby County vs Millwall
Leeds United vs Cardiff City
Nottingham Forest vs Sheffield Wednesday
Preston North End vs Luton Town
Swansea City vs Middlesbrough
Wigan Athletic vs Huddersfield Town