Reading make the short trip to London on Saturday to face a Millwall side who have fared well under boss Gary Rowett since his appointment in October of last year.
In fact, both teams seemed to have benefitted majorly from their respective managerial appointments during this season, although Rowett’s appointment was certainly more popular that Bowen’s. The Lions are currently just one point off sixth-placed Sheffield Wednesday and could jump in to the playoffs with a win this weekend.
Reading will be looking to gain three points of their own, as they make a charge towards the top half of the table. Here are the facts and stats you need to know ahead of this weekend’s tie.
What? Championship Matchday 27
Where? The Den
When? Saturday 18th January 2020 (3pm KO)
The Lions have done very well under Gary Rowett recently, barring a hiccup at The Den against Barnsley, losing 2-1 in late December to the side in the relegation zone. The London side struggled before Neil Harris’ dismissal, although they are now back on the right path and on the cusp of a playoff place. However, they are only five points away from their opponents this week who currently sit in 14th.
Midfielder Ryan Leonard has rejoined training for the first time since October after injuring his knee in a tie against Leeds United – although manager Gary Rowett isn’t planning to rush him straight back in to the mix this weekend. Millwall will also be boosted by the recent arrival of Ryan Woods, although Mason Bennett didn't join the Lions before Saturday’s game against Reading despite being linked with a switch.
The Royals remain unbeaten in their last seven Championship games - momentum that the Royals will need to keep up if they are to continue their climb up the league table. A late equaliser against Nottingham Forest last weekend will have been a major boost to the Berkshire side, who were set to lose that game after Ben Watson’s strike earlier in stoppage time. Impressive recent away wins against Preston North End and Fulham have helped the Royals to build confidence – now is the time to continue building on that.
Lucas Joao is set to be on the sidelines for two to three months with a major hamstring injury, which has prompted calls for Mark Bowen to sign a striker in this transfer window. Glenn Murray is one potential candidate, although existing strikers including George Pucas and Yakou Meite will be looking to stake their claim to be the main striker in Berkshire.
The last meeting
Reading 2-1 Millwall
The Royals took the lead before the ten minute mark, when Jordan Obita’s volleyed finish from the edge of the area flashed past Bartosz Bialkowski and in to the back of the Preston North End net. What a moment this was for the full back, who had scored his first goal since his return from two years on the sidelines.
Just under 20 minutes later, a commanding header found its way in to the path of Ovie Ejaria, who slotted the ball through to Sam Baldock. Even though the forward still had a lot to do, he unleashed a powerful shot in to the top right hand corner to put the Berkshire side 2-0 up going in to half time.
However, it wasn’t to be a comfortable second half for the Royals. A mazy run from Jed Wallace was finished off in style by the winger, despite the best efforts of goalscorer Baldock and centre back Michael Morrison. An overhead kick from former Royal Jon Dadi Bodvarsson was the closest Millwall came to equalising that day, though his effort went wide of the post. This game continued Mark Bowen’s promising start as manager.
- Millwall have lost just two of their fourteen league games under Gary Rowett this season.
- They have also lost just two of their thirteen Championship home games in this campaign, winning seven and drawing the other two.
- Reading have lost three of their last five games against Millwall.
- The Royals are unbeaten in the last nine games in all competitions. This run goes back to the 1-1 draw against Barnsley on 11th December last year.
Likely Reading lineup: Rafael, Blackett, Moore, Morrison, Gunter, Swift, Pele, Adam, Ejaria, Baldock, Meite
Rafael will start between the sticks after Sam Walker took his place on Tuesday for the FA Cup replay game against Blackpool. Tyler Blackett is also likely to start in yet another league game, despite the rumours surrounding interest from Turkey. Liam Moore and Michael Morrison also seem to be an unbreakable partnership at the moment, although Matt Miazga will be ready to start if one of the pair either get injured or suspended.
Andy Rinomhota is another player who has been the victim of a largely unchanged league starting eleven during the unbeaten run so far and he’s likely to be on the bench again after starting in midweek against Blackpool. Charlie Adam’s very late introduction is a huge indictor that he will start again on Saturday, whilst the rested Pele, Ejaria and Swift could join him once again.
Lucas Joao’s injury has solidified Sam Baldock and Yakou Meite’s place in the squad, although it’s unclear whether one of them will make way for George Puscas this weekend. The Romanian’s pressure heavily contributed to Nottingham Forest’s late own goal last weekend – will this be enough to convince Bowen to take a chance on him this Saturday?
Millwall are a tough side to beat at home and the Royals could slip up this weekend if they are not on their A game. I can’t pick a winner out of these two sides and Reading’s defence seems to be coping very well with what the Championship has to throw at them lately. I’m going for a boring but professional 0-0 draw. Let’s hope for goals galore, especially for the away side.
Score prediction: Millwall 0-0 Reading
Other Championship fixtures
All Saturday 18th January 2020 (3pm KO) unless stated
Fulham vs Middlesbrough (Friday 17th January 7:45pm KO)
Queens Park Rangers vs Leeds United (12:30pm KO)
Birmingham City vs Cardiff City
Bristol City vs Barnsley
Derby County vs Hull City
Huddersfield Town vs Brentford
Preston North End vs Charlton Athletic
Sheffield Wednesday vs Blackburn Rovers
Swansea City vs Wigan Athletic
Nottingham Forest vs Luton Town (Sunday 19th January 12pm KO)
West Bromwich Albion vs Stoke City (Monday 20th January 8pm KO)