Reading will be looking to get back to winning ways tonight, as they face Preston North End after suffering their first league loss of the season against Coventry City on Friday evening.
This is the game where the Royals will show what they are made of - and how well they can bounce back from defeat. However, they face a tricky task tonight against a Preston side that hasn’t lost a single away game so far this season. A win for the Royals would put us back on track, a loss would leave us looking over our shoulder. Who can come out on top?
Here’s everything you need to know ahead of this midweek tie.
What? Championship Matchday 10
Who? Preston North End
Where? Madejski Stadium
When? Wednesday 4th November
Opposition Manager? Alex Neil
Typing that first L was painful, it has to be said - but I guess that shows how far we have come compared to recent seasons. However, we haven’t achieved anything concrete just yet and these final two games going in to the next international break could prove to be crucial. Win four or six points - and we will be back on track. This will be no easy task though, with two very capable sides looking to come to the Madejski Stadium and knock the league leaders off their perch.
Liam Moore’s injury makes things a little more trickier - and he joins Andy Yiadom, Felipe Araruna, John Swift, Ovie Ejaria and Yakou Meite on the sidelines - although I hope the latter two will be fit enough to make the matchday squad tonight. Another player who has recently suffered with injury is Tom Holmes, who is either still injured or unable to break back in to Veljko Paunovic’s plans for the time being.
Preston North End: LWWLL
If Alex Neil’s side can sort out their home form, they could be a force to be reckoned with this season. It’s fair to say their matches at Deepdale have cost them dearly - as they sit in lower mid-table - but the Lilywhites have been a side I’ve been impressed with over the past few years. In Neil, they have a promotion-winning manager and as a club, they just seem to be a very stable ship.
Full back Darnell Fisher was actually born in Reading and spent time playing for non-league side Farnborough, before moving to Celtic in 2011. He made numerous appearances at Celtic Park and had a loan spell at St Johnstone near the end of his time in Scotland, before moving to Rotherham United in 2016. He spent just a year at the Millers before moving on to Preston, where he has been a key player. Another player who may come back to haunt Reading is Scott Sinclair, who scored a hat-trick in *that* playoff final against Swansea City. Please don’t do this, Scott, you’ve caused enough damage as it is.
The Last Meeting
Preston North End 0-2 Reading
The last game of 2019 turned out to be a Reading win at Deepdale, with two goals in the first quarter of an hour deciding this one. In the 12th minute, Ovie Ejaria, Charlie Adam and Tyler Blackett linked up down the left hand side to provide a great cross to John Swift, who slotted the ball home to make it 1-0.
Ejaria and Blackett were involved in the second goal three minutes later, when the latter rode a challenge to set Lucas Joao free. After taking a touch to compose himself, the Portuguese striker fired the ball in to the net past Declan Rudd.
This was another three points for the Royals over a festive period where they enjoyed a lot of success, although we had Rafael to thank for some of the crucial saves he made in that game. At this point, we thought things couldn’t have been any better - but then Fulham away came up next...
The Last League Match
Coventry City 3-2 Reading
Unfortunately for Reading, this would be the game where our unbeaten run in the Championship finally came to end. Gustavo Hamer’s well-placed shot past Rafael put the home side 1-0 up at half time - leaving Veljko Paunovic with his biggest team talk of the season so far.
The interval looked like it would be the turning point for the league leaders, when Lucas Joao equalised in the 66th minute.
However, after the Royals were initially saved by the crossbar and then Rafael, Matt Godden fired home a rebound ten minutes later - and Sam McCallum all but sealed the game when his swerving shot beat Rafael. The Brazilian goalkeeper will be the first to admit he should have done better there but I hope he bounces back like the rest of the squad this evening.
George Puscas did pull one back in stoppage time to set up a nervy final couple of minutes for Coventry - but they managed to see it out to take all three points.
- Reading have now conceded five goals in two Championship games, after conceding just one goal in their seven league games before that.
- However, the Royals have won their last five meetings with Preston. A promising sign or a jinx?
- The Lancashire side are unbeaten away from home in the league so far this season, winning three and drawing one.
- However, they haven’t managed to pick up a single point in any of their five home games in the 2020/21 campaign so far.
Likely Reading lineup: Rafael, Richards, McIntyre, Morrison, Esteves, Rinomhota, Laurent, Ejaria, Semedo, Olise, Puscas
I have to say this was quite a hard lineup to predict with injuries and rotation. The back five is likely to remain similar though, with the exception of Liam Moore who came off injured at St Andrew’s and may be out for a while.
This is a major shame because the captain has played very well so far this season - but I think Tom McIntyre is more than capable to stepping up to the plate and filling in alongside Michael Morrison at the heart of defence.
Tomas Esteves had a mixed performance on Friday. However, he is likely to start again on Wednesday with Omar Richards on the other flank - with Andy Rinomhota and Josh Laurent in front of the defence as usual.
According to Tim Dellor, both Ovie Ejaria and Yakou Meite could be back for tonight’s game, although both are unlikely to start together as they make their way back to full fitness. In that case, Alfa Semedo could start in attacking midfield once again with Michael Olise by his side.
One player who didn’t do too badly on Friday, in all fairness, was Sone Aluko. Although there he did make a few mistakes, you could tell he wanted to make something happen and wasn’t shy to get on the ball even after the past few years.
So, would I be displeased to see him start again? Not at all - but it would be a huge boost to have Ovie Ejaria and Yakou Meite raring to go against a Preston side who will look to hand us our second consecutive league defeat. I back the former to come straight back in to the first 11 and make an impression. If Yakou Meite returns to the bench too, he has the potential to come on and change the game.
Up top, is it rotation time again? The Royals have two games in the space of four days with Stoke City travelling down to Berkshire on Saturday - and Veljko Paunovic will want to go in to the international break with as much momentum as possible. Lucas Joao may not start both games, which means George Puscas could come in on Wednesday evening.
We will have to wait and see what happens - but let’s get in to the score prediction now. After losing in the West Midlands on Friday, this could have knocked our confidence. However, I do believe we will bounce back tonight and get at least a point out of this match. On Friday, I said it would be ideal if we kept a clean sheet. Tonight, we need to keep it tight at the back. This could be a tricky task with Liam Moore’s absence, so I will go with a 1-1 draw tonight.
Score Prediction: Reading 1-1 Preston North End
Other Championship Fixtures
All Wednesday 4th September (7:45pm KO unless stated):
Watford vs Stoke City (7pm KO)
Birmingham City vs Wycombe Wanderers
Derby County vs Queens Park Rangers
Nottingham Forest vs Coventry City
Rotherham United vs Luton Town