A Christmas clash between two under-performing sides could be vital for both sides in their quest to improve their form going in to 2020, when Reading welcome Derby County to Berkshire.
Phillip Cocu, who succeeded Frank Lampard as Derby County manager in the summer, has struggled to replicate the results achieved by his predecessor last season that saw the East Midlands side reach the playoff final. The former Barcelona player will be under immense pressure to take all three points away from Berkshire this weekend.
Here are the all the facts and stats you need to know ahead of this Saturday’s fixture at the Madejski Stadium.
What? Championship Matchday 22
Who? Derby County
Where? Madejski Stadium
When? Saturday 21st December 2019 (3pm KO)
Can you really argue with two consecutive away draws? A point is a point in each case, but we had a real chance to win both of these games. A 1-1 draw against the side at the foot of the Championship table in Barnsley was not good enough, especially when you look at the manner in which we conceded that night.
Coupled with the drab 0-0 draw at the bet365 stadium against Stoke City, it hasn’t been a great time for the Royals recently. Of course, the situation could be worse, but it could also be a lot better. The Berkshire side have a great opportunity to improve their form with two upcoming home games against the Rams and Queens Park Rangers. QPR visit the Madejski Stadium on Boxing Day (7:30pm KO).
Previously ousted full back Chris Gunter is likely to start in place of Andy Yiadom, who’s out for the rest of this calendar year, while John Swift is closing in on a return to the first team and should play some part against Derby. Centre back Matt Miazga, who picked up a hamstring injury in training and missed last weekend’s tie up in Staffordshire against Stoke City, shouldn’t be out for that long either but Saturday may be too soon for him.
George Puscas may not be too far away from a return after dislocating his shoulder, while Jordan Obita is fully fit and could start this weekend. However, Tom McIntyre will be out after sustaining a hamstring injury.
Derby County: LDLDL
The Rams currently sit 16th in the Championship table, a really disappointing position for a side who were 90 minutes away from reaching the Premier League in May. Taking just two points from a possible fifteen has raised questions over the future of Phillip Cocu, who has really struggled for consistency ever since his appointment.
Krystian Bielik returned to first-team action to face Millwall last weekend, although he failed to make an appearance off the bench. This game could be the perfect opportunity for the Pole to get some first team minutes under his belt.
Matt Clarke and Tom Huddlestone continue their rehabilitation and are drawing ever closer to a return, with both out on the grass in the next phase of their recovery. However, forward Mason Bennett and 28 year-old Graeme Shinnie are a few months away from a return. The former has recently had surgery on his ankle.
The addition of Wayne Rooney, who’s ineligible to play for the club until next month, could rescue Cocu as the side look to change their fortunes ahead of the new year.
The last meeting
Derby County 2-1 Reading
Duane Holmes opened the scoring for the home side within three minutes, converting from Harry Wilson’s perfectly weighted through ball to put Derby 1-0 up early on. The Rams doubled their advantage when Wilson’s deflected shot off Andy Rinomhota sailed past Anssi Jaakkola in the Reading goal.
They had the ball in the net against in the second half through Martyn Waghorn, although he was adjudged to be offside when the ball was played through to him by Jack Marriott. Loanee Mason Mount then missed a glorious opportunity shortly before Sone Aluko reduced the deficit. However, the away side failed to capitalise on this momentum and the match finished 2-1, much to the relief of the home supporters.
The Royals were still in the relegation zone at this point in mid-January of this year. Despite the defeat and league position, the performance gave the fans real optimism as performances started to improve under Jose Gomes. This match also marked Tiago Ilori’s last game in a Reading shirt before his move to Sporting Lisbon.
- Reading have a 40% win rate under Mark Bowen in his ten games in charge so far. Consistency will be key under the Welshman who’s currently in charge of a side which should be much higher up in the Championship table.
- The Royals have won just one of their previous eight meetings with Derby County. This victory came at Pride Park in November 2017 in a 4-2 scoreline - one of few highlights of Reading’s 2017/18 season.
- Derby County have won just one out of their ten away games so far this season. Another defeat for the Rams this weekend?
- The East Midlands side have also scored just seven goals in these ten games. There’s no wonder the side are struggling to pick up points away from Pride Park.
Likely Reading lineup: Rafael, Obita, Moore, Morrison, Gunter, Pele, Adam, Rinomhota, Ejaria, Baldock, Joao
Jordan Obita could make a return to the starting lineup to replace Tyler Blackett, although the pair and Omar Richards will all be competing for that left back spot. Blackett is likely to be on the bench to provide backup for Michael Morrison and Liam Moore if Miazga is ruled out at the weekend. McInytre is also unavailable. Teddy Howe and Gunter are also in competition for the right back spot, although the latter is set to start once again for fellow Welshman Mark Bowen.
If the home side opts to play four at the back again, I can only see Charlie Adam starting again. John Swift is highly unlikely to start this weekend - that’s even if he’s in the matchday squad. I honestly think that this team is crying out for some youthful energy from the likes of Josh Barrett and Michael Olise, although Bowen seems to be reluctant to use them.
Sam Baldock and Lucas Joao could also start again as a duo up top. Joao has scored against Birmingham City and Barnsley recently and has a good opportunity to get on the scoresheet once again this weekend. You can always rely on Baldock to put in a good shift up front whenever he’s given the opportunity.
However, I can’t see any other result this weekend other than a draw. This is a tie between two sides who are under-performing, neither of whom will want to lose again. Although Reading and Derby County haven’t been the best at the back in the campaign thus far, I can see this being a cagey affair. Cue an absolute goal fest because I’ve said that!
Score Prediction: Reading 0-0 Derby County
Other Championship fixtures
All Saturday 21st December 2019 (3pm KO) unless stated
Middlesbrough vs Stoke City (Friday 20th December 7:45pm KO)
Cardiff City vs Preston North End (12:30pm KO)
Fulham vs Leeds United
Huddersfield Town vs Nottingham Forest
Hull City vs Birmingham City
Luton Town vs Swansea City
Millwall vs Barnsley
Queens Park Rangers vs Charlton Athletic
West Bromwich Albion vs Brentford
Sheffield Wednesday vs Bristol City (Sunday 22nd December 12pm KO)
Blackburn Rovers vs Wigan Athletic (Monday 23rd December 7:45pm KO)