The Royals are back at the Madejski this weekend, ready to build on their point away at Millwall on Wednesday night.
Their opponents this weekend are Bristol City, who have surpassed expectations so far this season to be in and around the promotion places. Even though they had high hopes of appointing Chris Hughton at the start of the season, hats off to Dean Holden for doing so well with the Robins. With both teams currently in the playoffs, a win for either side would cement their place in the top six going in to a busy December period. The question is, who will win this one?
Please let me know if I’m wrong, but as per, I’ll just say the following: here’s everything you need to know ahead of this weekend’s clash.
What? Championship Matchday 14
Who? Bristol City
Where? Madejski Stadium
When? Saturday 28th November
Opposition Manager? Dean Holden
I think that draw on Wednesday was vital. After initially going behind just before half time and with Millwall missing two sitters late on, the Royals could have easily lost that one. However, credit to the boys for getting back in to it in the second half, we just didn’t show enough going forward in the end. This is something I hope Veljko Paunovic has worked on with the players ahead of today and the inclusion of Michael Olise in the starting lineup could help on the creativity side of things. Tom Holmes could also help to shore things up at the back again after putting in a good performance in midweek.
Initially, he was supposed to be back last weekend – but his performance alone may have helped Reading to stop the rot. The academy graduate is currently there in place of Andy Yiadom, who frustratingly picked up another injury on international duty. We will be hoping to have Yiadom, John Swift and Felipe Araruna back to full fitness as soon as possible, because all could be great assets throughout the rest of the season. Yiadom and Swift especially – but Araruna did so well at the start of the campaign before his injury at the Cardiff City Stadium in September.
Bristol City: LWWWD
After winning their first four games of the Championship season, they were winless in their following five games until Halloween. However, they have enjoyed a productive November, winning 10 points from a possible 12 in their four games. The three wins were close affairs, winning by just a single goal in all three of them – but it’s the ability to grind out wins which separates the good sides from the very best. If they can continue to win games, even if it’s by a narrow margain, they will be fully in the playoff mix at the end of the season. After falling short of the top six last season under Lee Johnson, they will be hungry to rectify that this season.
In terms of players to watch, the Royals will need to keep an eye on the likes of Jamie Paterson and Nakhi Wells, both of whom are dangerous when in top form. However, it’s their squad depth which could cause the home side a few problems this afternoon, especially when you look at who was on their bench on Wednesday again Watford. Wells, former Royals Adrian Mariappa and Chris Martin, the experienced Chris Brunt and promising midfielder Han-Noah Massengo were all ready to come on – and this is what Reading will need to contend with in the latter stages of this game.
The Last Meeting
Reading 0-1 Bristol City
Jamie Paterson’s finish just after the hour mark was enough for Bristol City to take all three points away from the Madejski Stadium in late January earlier this year. After some decent link up play and a wonderful through pass, Paterson slotted the ball past Rafael – although they did have to weather a late storm from the Royals to keep a crucial clean sheet.
This win allowed the Robins to climb in to the playoff places, although they weren’t able to retain this place come the end of the 2019/20 season. Meanwhile, Reading were down in 15th after a promising festive period – and they weren’t able to make great strides to vastly improve their position. Ultimately, this led to Mark Bowen’s departure in the summer after steadying the ship in Berkshire.
The Last League Match
Millwall 1-1 Reading
In a reasonably quiet first half, Millwall took the lead through a Jed Wallace free kick just before the interview, which could have destroyed our confidence. However, after Michael Olise was brought on for Alfa Semedo at half time, the Royals looked a lot better going forward. Olise’s measured through ball for Lucas Joao in the 53rd minute allowed the forward to fire the ball in between Bartosz Bialkowski’s legs and in to the back of the net.
After four consecutive losses, this was a much-needed point on the board – and we will be hoping to build on that this weekend against a very strong Bristol City side.
- Reading have scored in ten of their 13 league games in 2020/21. Not too shabby.
- The Berkshire side have only won one of their last six meetings against this weekend’s opponents. Before that, Reading had won seven consecutive games against the Bristol side in a run stretching between December 2010 and January 2017.
- Bristol City have kept a clean sheet in their past three Championship games. Considering one of these opponents was Watford, that is pretty impressive.
- The Robins have also lost just one of their seven away games so far this season. This 1-0 defeat came on the south coast against Bournemouth at the end of October.
Likely Reading lineup: Rafael, Richards, Morrison, Moore, Holmes, Rinomhota, Laurent, Olise, Ejaria, Meite, Joao
After a decent enough defensive performance, I would look to retain the same back five going in to this game.
Rafael starts in goal – and put in a decent shift after making mistakes in previous games. Although he didn’t need to do a lot, there were one or two shots which could have easily deceived him and I have to say I did not see him make one single mistake during the Millwall game. Sam Walker appeared on the bench in midweek but I would expect to see Luke Southwood as understudy this weekend as he patiently waits for his turn.
Both Omar Richards and Tom Holmes were impressive – showing some good footwork and defending admirably after conceding so many goals previously. Hopefully, this performance has also given Liam Moore and Michael Morrison the confidence they need to move on from recent losses. We all know they have the ability to be one of the best centre back pairings in the Championship, let’s just hope they can get back to the formidable form they were in at the start of the campaign.
Andy Rinomhota and Josh Laurent were effective in midfield, with Michael Olise coming on at half time and providing some much needed energy at the start of the second half. The young French midfielder also provided the assist for Lucas Joao and I back him to (finally) play from the start this afternoon.
Ovie Ejaria and Yakou Meite could start alongside him to provide a threat in attacking midfield. Even though the former can produce a bit of magic every now and again, it would be good to see him being involved in key moments throughout games.
Once again, Lucas Joao starts up top after scoring in midweek, with George Puscas and Sam Baldock ready to come on as attacking options if Paunovic wants to take the Portuguese forward off at any point. Jayden Onen, who appeared on the bench for the first time at a senior level for the Royals, can also play behind the striker if we need a goal. Whether he’s on the bench again this weekend remains to be seen but it might be a promising sign for the former Brentford player if he does make it on the bench in more games this season.
Let’s do a score prediction now. Although Bristol City will be a tough opposition to beat, I feel we could get something out of this game. The defence will have taken confidence from the Millwall game, especially with Jed Wallace’s free kick being pretty much unstoppable. I can’t help but think we will score again this weekend. Perhaps this is too optimistic – but I will go for a 1-0 win this weekend. Meite or Joao will grab the winner for me.
Score Prediction: Reading 1-0 Bristol City
Other Championship Fixtures
All Saturday 28th November (3pm KO) unless stated:
Birmingham City vs Millwall
Blackburn Rovers vs Barnsley
Cardiff City vs Luton Town
Derby County vs Wycombe Wanderers
Huddersfield Town vs Middlesbrough
Norwich City vs Coventry City
Rotherham United vs AFC Bournemouth
Sheffield Wednesday vs Stoke City
Watford vs Preston North End
Nottingham Forest vs Swansea City (Sunday 28th November 12pm KO)