A late Boxing Day kick off sees Reading face off against Queens Park Rangers at the Madejski Stadium this Thursday.
Mark Warburton has guided the London side to 14th in a season which has been hindered by inconsistency and a poor run in November, where they failed to win any of their five league games. Ovie Ejaria and Eberechi Eze will be going head to head as two of the league’s most promising players - the winner of that battle could be an indication of who will take the three points this Thursday.
Here’s everything you need to know ahead of this Boxing Day clash in the Royal County of Berkshire.
What? Championship Matchday 23
Who? Queens Park Rangers
Where? Madejski Stadium
When? Thursday 26th December 2019 (7:30pm KO)
If Mark Bowen can keep on grinding out the results needed, we can’t really complain. Three goals and a clean sheet is the perfect way to go into Boxing Day; now is the time to build momentum and consolidate a mid-table finish. If I were offered 16th place right now, would I take it? Ideally, we’d be in a slightly higher position but the main priority is retaining our place in the Championship. Relegation would be a financial disaster for the Royals.
John Swift made a return to first team action in time for the Royals’ game at the weekend against Derby County and could be given a start on Boxing Day, while Matt Miazga has returned to training and should also be available against QPR. It’s unclear whether Jordan Obita will available.
One player who won’t be stepping on to the Madejski Stadium pitch on Thursday is George Puscas, who has gone back to Romania. However, the forward does not need an operation on his dislocated shoulder; a consolation for both Puscas and Reading. Tom McIntyre also remains sidelined.
Queens Park Rangers: DWWLD
Despite having a decent strike force with the likes of Eberechi Eze, Nahki Wells and Jordan Hugill, the Rs have been conceding goals left, right and centre. Their defeats to Nottingham Forest (0-4) and Barnsley (5-3) are just two examples of a chaotic QPR defence that has dogged their defence so far this season. Conceding seven goals in their past two league matches won’t be good for morale and they will be hoping to bounce back this Thursday to give travelling fans a late Christmas present.
Liam Kelly has returned to training after tearing his quadricep, although he didn’t make the squad in time for QPR’s last time against Charlton Athletic. Meanwhile, defender Yoann Barbet is unlikely to feature after sustaining a groin injury. However, Angel Rangel is edging ever closer to a return to the matchday squad.
The last meeting
Queens Park Rangers 2-2 Reading
The game at the Kiyan Prince Foundation Stadium started off with high intensity, as Ejaria slotted a ball through to Sam Baldock, only for the goalkeeper to make a smart save to deny the visitors. Ejaria himself almost broke the deadlock just after, with Kelly once against making a good stop.
Three things are guaranteed in life: death, taxes and Nahki Wells scoring against Reading, and he was the man to put the home side 1-0 up before the half hour mark. However, the Royals hit straight back. A wonderful through ball by Ejaria found its way into the path of Puscas, who made no mistake and slotted the ball home.
Jordan Hugill put QPR ahead once again with a heavily deflected shot off Liam Moore that sailed over Rafael’s head. The Royals were facing their first defeat under Mark Bowen until Swift’s perfectly weighted ball was headed down by Andy Yiadom and helped on by Garath McCleary for Baldock to make amends for his earlier missed chance. The match finished 2-2 at a time when Reading were in poor form after just sacking Jose Gomes.
- Reading have won four of their six home games under Mark Bowen in his tenure so far at the Madejski Stadium.
- The Royals have won just one of their last nine games against Queens Park Rangers.
- QPR have the third worst defence in the league, conceding 44 goals. Only Barnsley (46) and Luton Town (47) have let in more in the Championship so far.
- However, they have made up for this with their attacking threat, scoring 37 goals in 22 league games. This is the joint-second best in the league.
Likely Reading lineup: Rafael, Blackett, Moore, Miazga, Gunter, Swift, Rinomhota, Ejaria, Meite, Baldock, Joao
Although Miazga could return from injury this weekend, why change to a five at the back just to accommodate Michael Morrison? Why change a winning formation? Blackett and Gunter are likely to continue as the fullbacks in this Boxing Day tie, despite fierce competition in the left back spot from Jordan Obita and Omar Richards.
Swift could form a partnership with Andy Rinomhota in midfield, with Ejaria and Meite on the wings. I think this just highlights the fact that we may need to go and purchase a winger or two in January if Aluko doesn’t play for the first team again and Barrow isn’t recalled. At a time like this, we could really do with having the duo to provide a threat from out wide.
With Puscas still out, Lucas Joao and Baldock will continue as a duo up front. Keep an eye out for Joao - he may finally be gathering the momentum needed to be a constant goalscoring threat throughout the rest of the season. Baldock could play a vital part in that.
In terms of the result, I back the Royals to pick up a narrow win on Boxing Day. If we can get some consistency going, we could really consolidate a mid-table finish this season. I’ll be satisfied with that, let’s just give ourselves a platform to build on with another positive result in this festive period.
Score Prediction: Reading 2-1 Queens Park Rangers
Other Championship fixtures
All Thursday 26th December 2019 (3pm KO) unless stated
Barnsley vs West Bromwich Albion
Blackburn Rovers vs Birmingham City
Brentford vs Swansea City
Cardiff City vs Millwall
Charlton Athletic vs Bristol City
Hull City vs Nottingham Forest
Luton Town vs Fulham
Middlesbrough vs Huddersfield Town
Stoke City vs Sheffield Wednesday
Wigan Athletic vs Derby County
Leeds United vs Preston North End (5:15pm KO)