Reading host Rotherham United this weekend, and it is a massively important game for both teams - a loss for either side will hugely damage their chances of survival in the Championship. It is a relegation six-pointer, and if either team wishes to stay up this season then they need to come away with the three points this weekend.
One area that the Royals have really struggled with so far this season has been defending set-pieces, and they may be in for another long afternoon if they give the Millers too many opportunities to lump the ball into the area. Paul Warne’s side have scored 13 goals from set-pieces so far this season (39% of their goals) which is the same amount of goals they have scored from open-play, so this shows how much they rely on dead-ball situations.
The Royals have struggled against long-ball sides like Millwall and Bolton so far this campaign, and it’s all down to the lack of players who can dominate in the air. Matt Miazga has come into the side and added a bit of height and some assurance when it comes to defending set-pieces, but we still seem to struggle with it.
Ironically, the Royals have looked better recently with attacking set-pieces. I know not a lot (if any) have actually come to something, but we look more of a threat as of late and hopefully we can make something of one of them this weekend.
Keeping possession is a real weakness for Paul Warne’s side, and the Royals will need to try and wear them down by keeping control of the game. Warne encourages his full-backs and centre-backs to play long balls as often as possible, hence why they lose possession so often. They average 81 long balls per game and 211 short passes, with an average possession of only 44%.
In contrast, the Royals average 70 long balls per game and 365 short passes, and a possession rate of 50.5%. Jose Gomes’ new possession-based style of play will therefore go up against a very different brand in Paul Warne’s, so hopefully it will end up well for the home side.
Time for my prediction, and I am going to go for 2-1 to the Royals. I am quietly confident of getting the win, but I can’t see us keeping a clean sheet. Hopefully the fans can get behind the boys and help create some breathing space between us and the bottom three.