The last game before the international break sees Reading host Michael O’Neill’s Stoke City this afternoon, with both sides looking to win all three points.
After a busy schedule in October and the start of November, Veljko Paunovic and his squad will be looking forward to another break, before heading in to a very busy Festive period. Meanwhile, the Potters have vastly improved on their results compared to the start of last season – and will be looking to continue climbing up the Championship table. This is set to be a fascinating tie – but who will take the initiative and win this one?
Here’s all the facts and stats you need to know ahead of this tie.
What? Championship Matchday 11
Who? Stoke City
Where? Madejski Stadium
When? Saturday 7th November 2020
Opposition Manager? Michael O’Neill
The Preston game was a good opportunity to stretch our lead at the top of the Championship table. Unfortunately, we just didn’t perform up to scratch on Wednesday night – and conceded another three goals in the process. Whilst it’s clear Tom McIntyre did not have his best game, the whole team didn’t step up and for me, it is quite clear we are missing the absent players. Ovie Ejaria, John Swift and Yakou Meite could have made an impact in this game, although we need to focus on tightening up our defence.
One of the few highlights of Wednesday night was seeing Andy Yiadom back in action after quite a lengthy injury spell. He may start on Saturday after coming on in the latter stages of the Preston game. However, one major disappointment was not seeing Ovie Ejaria and Yakou Meite in the squad. With their absence, it’s unlikely they will start on Saturday even if both are fit enough to make the matchday squad. The duo, as well as captain Liam Moore, are all set to face late fitness tests.
Stoke City: DWLWL
Stoke were actually very unlucky not to come away with a point from Vicarage Road on Wednesday night, as Ismaila Sarr’s stoppage time strike left O’Neil’s side heartbroken. Despite this, they will be craving redemption this weekend, providing a clear warning sign to the home side about the challenge they face this weekend. However, Stoke City have lost their past two away games, albeit to two very capable teams in Swansea and Watford. Will it be three shortly after 2:15pm today?
Regardless of how this match pans out, it’s safe to say they’re doing a lot better now than they were at this stage last season. After ten league games in 2019/20, they were rock bottom with just two points, although they did win their 11th game. The Royals will be hoping history doesn’t repeat itself this season. In terms of injuries for the away side, Adam Davies is out for a number of weeks after suffering a knee injury against Swansea City last weekend - and Joe Allen will also remain on the sidelines despite making progress on the way back from his long-term absence.
The Last Meeting
Reading 1-1 Stoke City
This game was the Royals’ first since the first national lockdown, with both sides eager to get back on the pitch after a three month absence.
The home side made the perfect start when Yakou Meite’s cross on the right fell to Lucas Joao, who made no mistake in firing the ball home. Seven minutes in – and the Berkshire side had the advantage. This was a lead they would keep until the second minute of stoppage time, when a corner was eventually headed home by Nick Powell to rescue a point for the Potters.
Would you take a point again this weekend considering the last couple of games?
The Last League Match
Reading 0-3 Preston North End
After conceding three goals against Coventry City in the previous game, we simply had to keep a clean sheet on Wednesday to improve our confidence.
Lucas Joao came close early on with a header – but our second half capitulation consigned us to consecutive losses in the league. Although Rafael rescued the Royals by saving Daniel Johnson’s penalty, goals from Scott Sinclair (*shudders from playoff final flashbacks*), Emil Riis Jakobsen and Brad Potts sealed a clinical win for the Lilywhites, who remain unbeaten away from home in the league so far in this campaign.
In the last game before the international break, Reading desperately need to pick up a point or three to boost morale.
- Reading have conceded eight goals in their past three games. This is slightly worrying.
- The Royals are also winless in their last seven meetings with Stoke City. Can we end this run today?
- Stoke City have conceded seven goals in their past four games – so there are goals in this match if either side can show attacking intent.
- The Potters have also scored in seven of their last eight Championship games.
Likely Reading lineup: Rafael; Richards, Gibson, Morrison, Yiadom; Rinomhota, Laurent; Aluko, Semedo, Olise; Joao.
After midweek’s 3-0 loss, it’s likely we will see a few changes to the starting lineup this afternoon.
After his penalty save in the last match, I hope Rafael has gained confidence from his performance despite the defeat, with Omar Richards and Michael Morrison remaining in defence. I do think Paunovic will make a couple of changes at the back though, with Andy Yiadom coming in for teenager Tomas Esteves and Lewis Gibson replacing Tom McIntyre in defence. McIntyre should keep his head held high - but he may need one or two games to recover from his performance in midweek.
In central midfield, there might be the temptation to replace either Andy Rinomhota or Josh Laurent with Alfa Semedo to see how the Benfica loanee performs in a more defensive position - but the fact Ovie Ejaria and Yakou Meite were not in the squad on Wednesday may mean all three start again Saturday. It may also mean Michael Olise and Sone Aluko start again on the wings - although neither performed particularly poorly against Preston. The latter nearly scored in the first half in all fairness.
Up top, we may continue with Lucas Joao, although you never know what could be up the gaffer’s sleeve. There is a case for going 4-4-2 to switch it up and surprise Stoke, especially with the players we currently have out - but let’s stick to what we know and just see what happens at 11:30 when the team sheet comes out. It will probably be the most anticipated lineup of the 2020/21 season so far, with question marks over both the system and personnel.
Moving on to the score prediction, I have to say I’ve lost a bit of confidence in our defence over the past couple of games. Liam Moore’s injury will not have helped matters but now is the time to put in a spectacular defensive performance. Unfortunately, I do think we will concede again - and may suffer a 2-0 loss, especially when considering our recent form against this afternoon’s opponents.
Please let this be another terrible prediction.
Score Prediction: Reading 0-2 Stoke City
Other Championship Fixtures
All fixtures will take place on Saturday 7th November (3pm KO):
Birmingham City vs AFC Bournemouth
Blackburn Rovers vs Queens Park Rangers
Brentford vs Middlesbrough
Derby County vs Barnsley
Huddersfield Town vs Luton Town
Norwich City vs Swansea City
Nottingham Forest vs Wycombe Wanderers
Rotherham United vs Preston North End
Sheffield Wednesday vs Millwall
Watford vs Coventry City