Reading will be hoping to build momentum after their late comeback against Wigan Athletic last weekend, as the Royals host Birmingham City at the Madejski Stadium on Saturday.
The away side are slowly starting to slip down the second-tier table as they remain winless since late October. They will be desperate to get back to winning ways against a Reading side that has struggled expectantly after their shrewd transfer window business in the summer.
Here are all the facts and figures you need to know ahead of this early December clash back in Berkshire.
What? Championship Matchday 19
Who? Birmingham City
Where? Madejski Stadium
When? Saturday 7th December 2019 (3pm KO)
It looked like it was going to be three straight defeats for Mark Bowen’s side last weekend until George Puscas worked his magic. The contrast in emotions from half time at the DW Stadium to the full-time whistle does not even compare. Not only because we got the win, but the manner in how we did it. A defeat really would have put us back in trouble, but that win and our game in hand has really given us a platform to kick on now.
Jordan Obita is out through illness, so Omar Richards should retain that left wing-back spot, while Sam Baldock and Lucas Joao are also in contention. One player who won’t feature against Birmingham City is John Swift, who is likely to be out for at least a couple more weeks. However, fellow central midfielder Ovie Ejaria could return after missing out with illness last weekend.
Birmingham City: LLDDD
The away side have taken just three points out of a possible 15 in their last five games, which sees the Royals sit just four points behind them in the table with a game in hand. Pep Clotet had been in caretaker charge of the Blues since the start of the season, after Garry Monk was sacked by Birmingham City’s board in the summer. He was however given the job permanently in the week.
The Blues are likely to be without Marc Roberts after the centre back landed awkwardly on his ankle last weekend and had to be stretchered off against Millwall. Harlee Dean and Jake Clarke-Salter are likely to be the central defensive pairing for the West Midlands side in Berkshire this weekend.
The last meeting
Reading 0-0 Birmingham City
This clash on the final day of last season was so promising. Danny Loader, Josh Barrett and Michael Olise all started in a front three and played very well despite firing a blank that day. I honestly thought that this game was the start of a youth revolution, with an exciting young trio and a financial situation which placed us under a soft transfer embargo in the early stages of the summer.
Barrett and Loader went closest for the Royals in the first half, after some good play by Chris Gunter down the right-hand side. The most poignant moment of the match came in the second half when John O’Shea came on for his final ever professional game before his retirement. He’s now a coach in the first-team setup in Berkshire.
Where did it all go wrong for Jose Gomes? We were really look forward to a bright future under the Portuguese man after this promising performance. It was clear that something needed to change at the time of his sacking, unfortunately for him it was in the managerial department.
- Reading have only kept a clean sheet in four of their 18 league games so far this season.
- However, the Royals have the best defensive record of teams in the bottom half of the Championship table, conceding 23 goals.
- Birmingham City have scored at a rate of just one goal per match in the league this season. They can’t expect to win many based off that record.
- The Blues have also won five, drawn two and lost three of their past ten games against Reading. Not a bad record for Clotet’s side.
Likely Reading lineup: Rafael, Richards, Moore, Morrison, Miazga, Yiadom, Rinomhota, Pele, Ejaria, Joao, Puscas
The back five for the Royals is likely to remain the same as last week, with Omar Richards making the left wing-back spot his own. After looking like being the third-choice left fullback for the Royals with the return of Jordan Obita and the capable backup of Tyler Blackett, this is an impressive achievement for the 21 year-old who has recently featured for England at youth international level.
Ovie Ejaria could also make a return after illness kept him out of the tie in Great Manchester against Wigan Athletic last weekend. Either him or Michael Olise needs to start this weekend. We desperately need that creativity in central midfield to compliment the solidity that Pele and Andy Rinomhota offer.
Up front, George Puscas will be looking to add more to his tally. Last weekend’s game needs to be just the start for the Romanian. If he can continue to add to his tally, it’ll only be a matter of time before the Championship sits up and takes notice of the young, promising forward.
I predict another win for the Berkshire side this weekend against an away team who are currently struggling for form. The Royals need to make the Madejski Stadium a fortress! I back Puscas to score again against another team who were also interested in him during the summer.
Score prediction: Reading 2-1 Birmingham City
Other Championship fixtures
All Saturday 7th December (3pm KO) unless stated
Millwall vs Nottingham Forest (Friday 6th December 7:45pm KO)
Huddersfield Town vs Leeds United (12:30pm KO)
Blackburn Rovers vs Derby County
Cardiff City vs Barnsley
Fulham vs Bristol City
Hull City vs Stoke City
Luton Town vs Wigan Athletic
Middlesbrough vs Charlton Athletic
Queens Park Rangers vs Preston North End
Sheffield Wednesday vs Brentford
West Bromwich Albion vs Swansea City (Sunday 8th December 12pm KO)