Despite the snow outside, Reading kick off February against Aston Villa in what could be a difficult month. The Royals face a jam-packed fixture list which includes promotion-chasing Sheffield United and relegation-threatened Rotherham.
After Tuesday night’s late draw to Bolton, José Gomes will be looking to bounce back and claw Reading out of the bottom three. Aston Villa meanwhile sit comfortably in 10th place, four points off a play-off place. Can the Royals beat the odds and the cold against a former Premier League giant or will they be permanently frozen in the relegation zone?
The Royals’ new marksman Nelson Oliveira is a slight doubt coming into the game after picking up a muscle injury on Tuesday night. Gomes has confirmed in his press conference this week that his fellow countryman is making good progress in his recovery and will be assessed on the day. If Oliveria only makes the bench, this could mean Danny Loader starting up front.
With Leandro Bacuna’s sale to Cardiff on deadline day, there is a spare place in centre midfield. This could mean loanee Lewis Baker making his first home start or Liam Kelly being given a fresh chance by Gomes. Sam Baldock, Anssi Jaakkola, Jordan Obita, Saeid Ezatolahi, Yakou Meite and Jon Dadi Bodvarsson are ruled out with long term injuries. Paul McShane, John O’Shea and Omar Richards can be now be recalled to the squad after taking part in training this week.
Top goalscorers: Jon Dadi Bodvarsson and Yakou Meite (7)
Villa brought in several new recruits during deadline day including Tyrone Mings and Tom Carroll. Both men are expected to be included in the match day squad as both boast Premier League experience.
The major injury news from the Villa camp is that star midfielder Jack Grealish is now out with a shin injury. He joins midfielder Andre Green in the treatment room. Striker Tammy Abraham will be looking to extend his lead as the Championship’s top goalscorer after displacing Billy Sharp with two goals against Ipswich last Saturday.
The Chelsea loanee is on 19 goals for the season with a very impressive average of 104 minutes per goal! Despite Abraham’s impressive goal tally, Villa have struggled to pick up wins recently, with Saturday’s win against Ipswich being their first victory in five games. However, manager Dean Smith will be hoping his defensively focused transfers will help Villa win games and rise up the Championship table.
Top goalscorer: Tammy Abraham (19)
- The Royals have failed to register back-to-back home wins against Aston Villa in their entire history. They can do so with victory on Saturday.
- Tammy Abraham has scored 1⁄3 of Aston Villa’s goals this season.
- Aston Villa are prone to throwing away winning positions, with them losing 23 points so far this season - more than any other team in the division.
- Reading are yet to win back-to-back home games this season.
Both sides have had positive transfer windows and results coming into this game. Reading are finally getting into their flow under Jose Gomes and are looking more threatening with every game. The manager has significantly trimmed the squad so they will all be pushing to keep their places and want to be there.
Aston Villa on the other hand should be in the top six with their talented squad, but an unravelling before Christmas led to Steve Bruce being sacked. With both teams desperate for a win, I can see this being a tight affair, with Reading hoping they keep Abraham quiet all game. A draw would be good for Reading but three points would be amazing going forward into this difficult month.
Reading 1-1 Aston Villa