After a downturn in Championship form, Reading’s attention turns to the League Cup. The Royals have already beaten Wycombe Wanderers on penalties and got past Plymouth Argyle in a six-goal thriller, and we’ve got another away trip in the competition to look forward to.
This time it’s Wolverhampton Wanderers, who have form problems of their own after a slow start to their Premier League season. Nonetheless, Nuno Espirito Santo’s men - who also have a Europa League campaign on their hands - will of course be formidable opposition for the Royals on Wednesday night.
Ahead of the match, we spoke to David from Wolves Fancast for his thoughts on Wanderers in general, how seriously Santo will take the game, how the contest will go and plenty more. Thanks to him for his help - you can find them on Twitter right here.
After a slow start to this season, how confident are you that Wolves can turn it around?
Jota’s last-second goal on Sunday afternoon against Crystal Palace could be a big moment. Although Wolves seemed back to their normal selves in the first half and should have been at least a goal up, Wolves were on the verge of another defeat.
Despite our unbelievable previous season, Nuno would have been under real pressure going into a week involving Reading and Watford at home. However, the performance and the goal could be a turning point for Nuno’s men. If Wolves continue to play as they did against Palace, they will start to show the signs of their dominating performances last season.
How seriously do you expect Wolves to take the game?
A strange one. Given Wolves’ busy schedule they may want to exit out of the League Cup as soon as possible. Yet, given Wolves’ dry run of wins, they may see this as a chance to notch a win on the board to breed some confidence going forward.
Expect a changed Wolves side, perhaps with a mixture of first team and second string players, but a side which is determined to seek victory.
Which young Wolves talents should we have an eye out for in the future?
One name that may start on Wednesday is Ruben Vinagre. Used sporadically since his arrival from Monaco last season, the wing back has ferocious pace and skill, and has already been a defender’s worst nightmare when on the field.
Expect big things from Ruben in the years to come, especially with a linked move to Barcelona over the summer.
What are your main strengths and weaknesses?
Wolves’ strength comes from their counter-attack style. Overlapping wing backs allow Wolves to break quick. There is also Adama Traore. A bit of a marmite player amongst fans last season, he never really got the rub of the green with inconsistent performances.
However he has been the standout performer so far this season. He has been able to improve on his ball retention and mixed this with his bullet pace. After being converted to a wing back, it has only added to Wolves’ strengths. Expect three defenders marking Adama on the attack at once.
Weakness. Play ten men behind the ball and expect Wolves to rally but unable to break down the wall. It’s still the Achilles heel of Nuno’s Wolves.
Do you have any standout memories of past games against Reading for good or bad reasons?
Well... it has to be the playoff semi-final second leg in 2003.
Wolves had been so unlucky in love when it came to the playoffs. So many defeats in second legs against the likes of Bolton and Palace. So when Wolves went to the Madejski with a 2-1 lead, the pessimistic Wolves fan didn’t expect a happy ending.
However, when Alex Rae slotted home the winner late on in the game, it was an oddly unsettling feeling of joy. Knowing we had finally broken the play-off semi-final curse.
How do you expect to see Wolves set up on Wednesday?
As mentioned, we could see a mixture of first-team and second-string players take part on Wednesday. But given Wolves’ consistent busy schedule with Europe, this should be a chance to give some players a rare rest.
Expect to see the likes of Patricio, Moutinho, Jota and Jiménez on the bench or not in the squad at all. With Ruddy, on-loan Real Madrid defender Vallejo, Morgan Gibbs White, AC Milan signing Cutrone and former Lazio winger Neto in their place, with a couple of under-23s either in the line up or on the bench.
How will the game go, and what will the score be?
Difficult to call given how Wolves will approach the game. However, I’m expecting a classic third-round League Cup ‘Ah let’s just go crazy’ kind of affair. I’m expecting goals but Wolves to edge it. 3-2.