Top of the table (yes, really) Reading welcome Paul Warne’s Rotherham United this weekend, as the home side look to maintain their unbeaten run in the Championship.
The Royals will need to be switched on, even as favourites, with Wycombe Wanderers giving Reading a tough ride on Tuesday night even though both sides failed to perform up to standard. Will we make a few changes for this game? Would it be a good decision to drop Holmes who has played well even at right back? What can we do to combat Rotherham’s tactics? These are just a few questions Veljko Paunovic will have to ponder, as he looks to lead his side to yet another win.
Here’s the facts and stats you need to know ahead of matchday seven at the Madejski Stadium.
What? Championship Matchday 7
Who? Rotherham United
Where? Madejski Stadium
When? Saturday 24th October
Opposition Manager? Paul Warne
Another game, another W. That win on Tuesday was certainly hard fought, although we did perform poorly in the first half. That being said, the Royals stepped it up massively in the second half and tried to play some good football. Lucas Joao proved to be the difference again with a great finish. Will he score again at the weekend? We’ll have to wait and see. I don’t think it’s unfair to say we will be favourites again this weekend – but Paul Warne’s side are no pushover and we will need to be at the top of our game to secure all three points.
Another positive we can take from Tuesday is the fact Veljko Paunovic has no fresh injury worries ahead of this weekend. Ovie Ejaria did suffer with a bit of cramp near the end – but he managed to play the rest of the match. Both Tomas Esteves and Alfa Semedo will be in contention for a start this weekend – but John Swift, Andy Yiadom and Felipe Araruna remain on the sidelines.
Rotherham United: LDDLD
Only Sammy Ameobi’s goal stopped the Millers from winning their second league game of the 2020/21 season on Tuesday night, with Warne’s side coming close to winning all three points at the City Ground. They will be desperate to win another game, with their only victory of the campaign so far coming away at Wycombe Wanderers on the opening day of the season. One positive they can be encouraged by is the fact they are not losing games very often – every point counts in this league.
Although they haven’t done too badly this season, it’s their last campaign which has impressed me. Relegation can have a devastating impact on clubs – but Paul Warne has managed to pick his side up even with Semi Ajayi and Will Vaulks heading to West Bromwich Albion and Cardiff City respectively in the summer 2019 window. This time, Rotherham will want to make sure they stay in the Championship for at least one season.
The Last Meeting
Reading 1 – 1 Rotherham United
Ah, I remember this game being a major source of frustration for us fans.
The one highlight of the game was Ovie Ejaria’s goal after a fantastic move from the back. This was a great team move capped off with a clever finish from Ejaria, who thought he may set the Royals up for a comfortable home win. This would have been a vital win for the Berkshire, especially with both sides level on points either side of the relegation zone, with Reading ahead just on goal difference.
However, Rotherham managed to equalise late on when Semi Ajayi bundled the ball home in the six yard box. This result could have been detrimental to the home side – but they managed to win their next two games against Ipswich Town and Wigan Athletic in dramatic style.
The Last League Match
Reading 1 – 0 Wycombe Wanderers
This is the reason why we must not underestimate any side in the Championship, regardless of their current predicament. The away side could have held out for a draw on another day, although one moment of magic from Lucas Joao proved to be the difference between the two sides.
Just after the hour mark, Liam Moore’s long-range pass found Joao, who turned neatly before firing home underneath Ryan Allsop. The Buckinghamshire outfit nearly equalised at the end when Adebayo Akinfenwa’s touch found its way to Fred Onyedinma, whose half volley was smartly saved by Rafael.
In the end, the Royals held out for the win and stepped it up in the second half to take all three points. It certainly wasn’t our best game – but getting the win is all that counts. The Royals are now top of the Championship.
- Last week I said we had only conceded one goal in over 540 minutes of Championship. Yeah, that was a mistake. Now it’s 540!
- The Royals are unbeaten in their last six games against this weekend’s opponents.
- Rotherham United have only kept one clean sheet so far in the league this season.
- However, the Millers have only conceded six goals in six games. That’s not too bad for a recently promoted side in all fairness.
Oh, and look at this cracking social media post by one of our editors. It’s pretty astonishing to see this stat:
Last season, Reading went past 16 points in the 16th league game.— The Tilehurst End (@TheTilehurstEnd) October 20, 2020
So we've got there in 10 fewer games, or about 21% less of the season. https://t.co/Ny5qlwHXwF
Likely Reading lineup: Rafael, Richards, Morrison, Moore, Esteves, Rinomhota, Laurent, Ejaria, Semedo, Olise, Joao
Should we rotate our team this weekend? How many changes do we make if so? With the run we are currently on, these are two very difficult questions to answer.
If we had a mixed bag of results, there would probably be more of an appetite to shake up the starting lineup – but changing a winning team always comes with a risk. Ovie Ejaria’s cramp against Wycombe in midweek counters this point, which makes Paunovic’s job even harder.
However, one player that will definitely start on Saturday barring an injury is Rafael, who made a decent save at the end to deny the Chairboys a late equaliser. Omar Richards is also likely to play again despite his poor performance in the first half on Tuesday, with Liam Moore and Michael Morrison teaming up once again in central defence.
It may also be Tomas Esteves’ time to make his first start for the Royals, although Tom Holmes can hold his head up high if that is the case. I would have liked to have seen Esteves be challenged defensively a bit more – but he did a decent enough job to intercept the ball on a couple of occasions. The question is: who would you start?
Moving on to midfield, Andy Rinomhota and Josh Laurent could start in midfield once again, although both players know they will need to keep performing with Alfa Semedo putting in an impressive shift in the last match.
Despite this, I do feel there is a place in the starting lineup for the former Nottingham Forest loanee. This could come at the expense of Yakou Meite, who didn’t perform very well in midweek – and he was quick to admit that on social media after the game to his credit.
I do rate Yakou Meite very highly though – and I wouldn’t be upset if he was in the starting lineup again on Saturday. It will be interesting to see how he bounces back. I have a feeling he may just get himself in and amongst the goals to make amends, whether he starts or comes off the bench. Either way, there’s no questioning he’s a valuable asset to the squad. It’s also possible that Semedo could come in for Ejaria, although the summer signing from Liverpool looked decent on the wing at times in the latter stages of the last game.
Up front, I back Lucas Joao to start again despite a mixed performance – although George Puscas will be raring to go as they both compete for a spot in the first 11.
Prediction time. A 2-0 win would be brilliant – and it would mean another clean sheet, with just one goal conceded in 630 minutes. Although we seem to be getting wins on the board by hook or by crook so far in this campaign, it would be great to see us totally dominate the match.
However, it will be another major test of our mental resilience – and we cannot afford to underestimate the South Yorkshire side. They will make things very difficult and from what I have seen, they can make things very difficult for the opposition. I’m praying for another home win this weekend!
Score Prediction: Reading 2 – 0 Rotherham United
Other Championship Fixtures
All Saturday 24th October (3pm KO) unless stated:
Nottingham Forest vs Derby County (Friday 23rd October 7:45pm KO)
Watford vs AFC Bournemouth (12:30pm KO)
Bristol City vs Swansea City
Cardiff City vs Middlesbrough
Coventry City vs Blackburn Rovers
Huddersfield Town vs Preston North End
Millwall vs Barnsley
Norwich City vs Wycombe Wanderers
Queens Park Rangers vs Birmingham City
Sheffield Wednesday vs Luton Town
Stoke City vs Brentford