Reading’s FA Cup campaign gets underway this weekend, as Lancashire side Blackpool pay a visit to the Madejski Stadium.
It’s great to see Blackpool still operating well in League One after years of ownership uncertainty. The third tier side are currently 10th and could challenge for the playoffs this season if they can put a consistent run of good performances together. Their fans really deserve it after dropping from the top flight to League Two in a reasonably short space of time.
Is another 2014/15-esque semi final run on the cards for the home side? A win this Saturday would be a good start. Here’s everything you need to know ahead of this FA Cup third round clash in Berkshire.
What? FA Cup Round 3
Where? Madejski Stadium
When? Saturday 4th January 2020
Our last FA Cup clash
Manchester United 2-0 Reading
Reading lineup: Jaakkola, Yiadom, Ilori, Moore, Richards, Rinomhota, Kelly, Harriott, Swift, McCleary, Loader
VAR turned out to be Reading’s enemy for United’s first goal, when Omar Richards’ challenge on Juan Mata in the penalty area was initially waved away by Stuart Attwell. This decision was overturned and Mata picked himself up to send Anssi Jaakkola the wrong way with a quarter of the game gone, although the visitors had played very well up until then.
Reading then had a golden chance to go level when Callum Harriott’s through ball put Danny Loader one on one with Sergio Romero. Although the young striker took the ball past the Argentinian, Romero was able to recover and block him off at a tight angle.
John Swift’s careless pass proved to be the decisive moment of the match and the hosts took full advantage of it when Romelu Lukaku took the ball calmly past Jaakkola, slotting in to make it 2-0 before half time.
Reading did have a couple of opportunities in the second half through Harriott (what skill by Sone Aluko in the buildup) and Aluko himself. However, the away side didn’t manage to get an early goal in the second half which would have put Manchester United under pressure and the match finished 2-0.
The last meeting
Blackpool 1-1 Reading
Zat Knight’s misjudged header put the away side on the backfoot almost straight away, when he dragged a Blackpool player down inside the box on the five-minute mark. Jamie O’Hara slotted the ball past Adam Federici to make it 1-0 early on.
Pavel Pogrebnyak’s run and cross just after half time deflected off Blackpool’s Grant Hall to make it 1-1, although this was seen as a very poor result for Reading. Blackpool were in a mess at the time and protested against their owners that very night.
Let’s take a look at the Reading lineup from that evening:
Federici, Gunter, Pearce, Knight, Obita, McCleary, Ake, Norwood, Robson Kanu, Appiah, Yakubu
You have to say the midfield that night was very good. Garath McCleary had two great seasons previously both in the Premier League and in our first season back in the Championship (2013/14) before 2014/15.
Nathan Ake and Oliver Norwood are now both Premier League players, with good reason, although Ake now operates as a defender at AFC Bournemouth. Meanwhile, Norwood currently plays for recently promoted side Sheffield United. Hal Robson-Kanu was also very good when he wanted to be. Just take a look at that Cruyff turn against Belgium.
- Reading have failed to get past the fourth round for the past three seasons. The last time they managed to get past that stage was in 2015/16, when a 2-0 home loss in the quarter final against Crystal Palace prevented the Berkshire side going to Wembley for the second consecutive season.
- The Royals have lost just one of their past five games against Blackpool.
- Blackpool have failed to win any of their last five League One games. A good chance for the Royals to make it through to the next round?
- The Seasiders have lost just two of their twelve away games in the league so far this season.
Unlikely but preferable Reading lineup: Walker, Obita, Odimayo, Miazga, Gunter, Rinomhota, Barrett, Aluko, Olise, Boye, Baldock
Despite the great momentum we have at the moment, I can’t help but think it would be irresponsible to not make wholesale changes this weekend. This Christmas period has inevitably been gruelling for the first team players – now it’s time to give the fringe players a chance to impress.
Sam Walker is likely to be given the nod for the keeper jersey this weekend, although Vito Mannone has returned from his loan in the United States. Rafael could use a good rest after that quadruple save against Fulham early on at Craven Cottage on Wednesday.
Jordan Obita and Matt Miazga could also be given their first starts in a while as they look to ease themselves back in to first team proceedings at the Madejski Stadium. Liam Moore’s shoulder is going to be a concern throughout the rest of the season, although Akin Odimayo could come in with Tom McIntyre injured and Gabriel Osho out on loan until the day of the match.
The one player who could retain his place in the starting eleven is Chris Gunter, who has performed admirably since Andy Yiadom’s injury. The Welshman has always been a very good athlete and that could contribute towards him keeping Teddy Howe out of the starting lineup.
Anyone for a diamond? This sort of system could work a treat if we do decide to rest quite a few of our players. Andy Rinomhota in that central defensive midfield role giving support to Odimayo and Miazga, Josh Barrett and Sone Aluko on the wings and Michael Olise in a more advanced central role. If this formation is to work, Barrett and Aluko will be vital. If they don’t track back, it could cost the Royals.
The Royals currently have George Puscas out, with Lucas Joao also likely to miss the game this weekend. Sam Baldock came back in to the matchday squad on Wednesday after a period out with injury and could start this weekend to get up to full speed of competitive football game. This could also be a good game for Lucas Boye to score and boost his confidence.
Although I believe Mark Bowen may field a stronger side, I feel that our home advantage could be enough to take us through to the third round. 3-1 is my prediction for this weekend’s clash – let’s hope there’s no upset.
Score prediction: Reading 3-1 Blackpool
Other FA Cup fixtures involving Championship teams on Saturday:
Bristol City vs Shrewsbury Town
Millwall vs Newport County
Rotherham United vs Hull City
Birmingham City vs Blackburn Rovers
Brighton & Hove Albion vs Sheffield Wednesday
Cardiff City vs Carlisle
Fulham vs Aston Villa
Southampton vs Huddersfield Town
Brentford vs Stoke City
Preston North End vs Norwich City
AFC Bournemouth vs Luton Town
Leicester City vs Wigan Athletic