Reading welcome Nottingham Forest to the Madejski Stadium this weekend, in the first of two meetings between the teams in January.
The East Midlands side are currently fourth in the Championship table and have made great progress under Sabri Lamouchi since the departure of Martin O’Neill in the summer. They will be looking to consolidate this position going in to the business end of the campaign. Meanwhile, the home side are currently on the rise after a sharp upturn in form in the Christmas period. Wins away at Preston North End and Fulham have been a real statement of intent.
Here’s everything you need to know ahead of this weekend’s tie.
What? Championship Matchday 26
Who? Nottingham Forest
Where? Madejski Stadium
When? Saturday 11th January 2020 (3pm KO)
What a great run the Royals have had over the Christmas period. Those wins away from home at Preston and Fulham were fantastic and have really excited supporters going into this current period.
The FA Cup game against Blackpool last weekend gave the opportunity for Mark Bowen to rest his first-team players. This is an opportunity he took with both hands, making eleven changes to his side that beat Fulham. I expect nine or ten changes again this weekend as the Berkshire side return to Championship action.
George Puscas could return to the first-team squad this Saturday after his recovery from a dislocated shoulder. Tom McIntyre has also recovered from injury and may make the matchday squad, although Matt Miazga could be the man keeping him off the bench. However, Andy Yiadom is still out injured - Chris Gunter and Teddy Howe are the capable backups in the mean time.
Nottingham Forest: LLWWW
Forest have rarely lost away from home this season and have been solid defensively outside of the East Midlands, which will present Reading with a tricky task this weekend. However, their 4-0 home loss to Sheffield Wednesday in mid-December shows that anything could happen on Saturday. The away side have won their last three games against Hull City, Wigan Athletic and Blackburn Rovers and may make this four if they come out victorious of the battle at the Madejski Stadium this weekend.
The side were given a major injury boost for their last match against Chelsea, with Yuri Ribeiro returning to the starting eleven after sustaining a knee injury in November against arch-rivals Derby County.
Long-term defensive absentees Michael Hefele and Yohan Benalouane also provided Forest with a boost - both made the bench for the game at Stamford Bridge. The latter came off the bench for Tobias Figueiredo at half time. Chema Rodriguez was one absentee for the FA Cup game, although he could return this weekend.
The last meeting
Reading 2-0 Nottingham Forest
Mo Barrow’s cross on the right for John Swift opened the score for the Royals, who were in desperate need of a win. An altercation broke out early in the second half after a hefty challenge from Daryl Murphy, resulting in a yellow card for Andy Yiadom as well as a second yellow card for Danny Fox.
Nottingham Forest were then reduced to ten men with ten minutes to go, after a lunge from Tendayi Darikwa on teenage forward Danny Loader. A terrible afternoon for Forest was made even worse when Jack Robinson put the ball in his own net late on.
This was enough to secure Jose Gomes’ first win as Reading manager and it was the platform that Reading needed to go on and escape the jaws of relegation.
- Reading are unbeaten in their last seven games in all competitions.
- However, the Royals have only kept one clean sheet in their past five games against Nottingham Forest. This single clean sheet came in the last campaign, which ended with Reading winning 2-0 and Forest being reduced to nine men.
- Forest have lost just two of their thirteen away league games this season under Sabri Lamouchi.
- In these thirteen away games, they have conceded just twelve goals. This is a rate of less than a goal conceded per game away from home.
Likely Reading lineup: Rafael, Obita, Moore, Morrison, Gunter, Swift, Pele, Adam, Ejaria, Baldock, Joao
Even though the victory at Fulham was outstanding, I can still see Mark Bowen making two changes to the starting eleven from that victory at Craven Cottage.
Tyler Blackett is currently subject of interest from Turkey and could be on the move with less than a year remaining on his current contract. Whilst it’s questionable as to whether he may move, Mark Bowen may opt to start Jordan Obita ahead of him this weekend as the academy graduate looks to revive his career, after a torrid time with injury.
Matt Miazga may not have done enough last weekend to stake him claim for a starting spot, giving Michael Morrison the chance to cement his place in the first eleven. The combination of Moore and Morrison has paid dividends for the Royals recently - are the duo going to be regular starters in the heart of defence for the rest of the season? Chris Gunter keeps his place in the absence of Andy Yiadom.
The midfield quartet of Charlie Adam, Pele, John Swift and Ovie Ejaria are also likely to start once again, with Adam given a rest against his former side Blackpool last weekend. You have to feel for Andy Rinomhota, who hasn’t done a lot wrong.
Sam Baldock could be Mark Bowen’s second change, with the forward returning to the first eleven last weekend and scoring a goal in the process. Yakou Meite could be the man to make way for the former Brighton and Hove Albion player.
The home side are currently in a rich vein of form and have the chance to continue this at home, although battling fourth-placed Nottingham Forest won’t be the easiest of tasks. Despite this, Ovie Ejaria and John Swift could be the difference this weekend – two players who provide the Royals with real creativity. I predict a 2-1 home victory, though any victory would do.
Score Prediction: Reading 2-1 Nottingham Forest
Other Championship fixtures
All Saturday 11th January 2020 (3pm KO) unless stated
Brentford vs Queens Park Rangers (12:30pm KO)
Barnsley vs Huddersfield Town
Blackburn Rovers vs Preston North End
Charlton Athletic vs West Bromwich Albion
Hull City vs Fulham
Leeds United vs Sheffield Wednesday
Luton Town vs Birmingham City
Middlesbrough vs Derby County
Stoke City vs Millwall
Wigan Athletic vs Bristol City
Cardiff City vs Swansea City (Sunday 12th January 12pm KO)