After Tuesday’s disappointing result against Leeds, Reading must pick themselves up away from home against Stoke City. The Royals will be looking nervously over their shoulders again as Rotherham and Wigan are now back level on points, adding pressure on Jose Gomes’ side. Stoke sit ten points above Reading in a comfortable 17th place, but it has been a disappointing season for the Potters who were tipped to go up at the start of the season.
Can Reading win back to back away games or will the Leeds defeat still be playing on their minds?
Form (all competitions): LWWDL
Ovie Ejaria could miss the game through injury after also being sidelined for Tuesday’s 3-0 thumping by Leeds. Youngster Ryan East, who made his debut in midfield against the Whites, will likely remain in the first XI if the Liverpool loanee remains out. With Liam Kelly not being favoured by Jose Gomes, East will be hoping to stake a claim for a permanent starting spot. Liam Moore played through the pain against Leeds after dislocating his shoulder against Wigan last Saturday, but still looks nailed on to start and captain the side. Therefore, it can be assumed that Gomes will pick the same 11 who played against Leeds on Tuesday.
If the video that the club produced for Red Nose Day is anything to go by, Andy Rinomhota is making good progress in the gym without his protective boot. The midfielder will most likely be rested, continuing his recovery with Nelson Oliveira, Jon Dadi Bodvarsson and Sam Baldock in the treatment room.
Top goalscorer: Yakou Meite (8)
Form (all competitions): DDWDD
Former Reading loanee Benik Afobe is being closely monitored for a hamstring injury ahead of the match after the striker was forced off in midweek against Derby. His strike partner Sam Vokes looks set to play after being assessed for a groin problem earlier in the week along with midfielder Peter Etebo.
Midfielder Sam Clucas is banned for this match as he begins a three game suspension. Royals legend Adam Federici is set to be on the bench acting as deputy for Jack Butland. The Australian spent a decade at Reading and was part of the Championship winning side in 2011/12.
Stoke come into this game having very little to play for, with their early promotion hopes having long faded. While they only sit 10 points ahead of the Royals, there is little fear of them being sucked into a late relegation battle. Despite having Premier League level players in their squad such as Tom Ince and Afobe, the Potters are the fourth lowest goal scorers in the league. However, they do have a good defensive record with 16 clean sheets this season thanks to a centre-back pairing of Ryan Shawcross and January signing Danny Batth. Whilst they may have nothing to play for, Nathan Jones’ side will be looking to build momentum as they aim to challenge for the title next year.
Top goalscorer: Benik Afobe (9)
Quick Fire Facts
- Since 2004, Reading have only been beaten by Stoke once in their last 9 games against them in all competitions (W4 D4).
- The Royals haven’t visited the bet365 Stadium (formerly the Britannia Stadium) in the Championship since 2005. Reading won 1-0 through a Dave Kitson strike.
- Stoke have scored only seven goals since Nathan Jones took over in the middle of January. No Championship side have scored fewer in that period.
- Reading are yet to win back to back games away from home this season, and haven’t done so since midway through 2016/17 when they claimed victory at Blackburn Rovers and then Bristol City.
On paper, Stoke have a squad capable of comfortably beating Reading. But the Championship’s gruelling fixture list has drained their confidence and fitness. Reading travel to Staffordshire with everything to play for as their relegation rivals have clawed back level on points. I can see this being a very edgy game but the Royals could come out on top with a slim goal margin if they convert the few chances Stoke will allow them. Lose however, and they could find themselves in the bottom three by Saturday evening.
Stoke 0-1 Reading