After a gutting 2-1 loss at the Madejski in midweek, Reading will be desperately hoping to make amends this afternoon as they face Queens Park Rangers.
It has been a pretty average season so far for Mark Warburton’s side, who currently sit in 18th place, six points off the top half of the table and six points above the relegation zone. This makes the festive season a defining period in the season for the London side, will they be able to climb their way up the Championship table. Will they be victorious today? Or will the Royals bounce back with a win? It’s time to find out.
Here’s everything you need to know ahead of this one.
What? Championship Matchday 18
Who? Queens Park Rangers
Where? The Kiyan Prince Foundation Stadium
When? Saturday 12th December
Opposition Manager? Mark Warburton
Queens Park Rangers: WLLLD
In their last five games, QPR have taken just four points from a possible 15 and without doubt, this is relegation form. It would have been six if it wasn’t for Jon Dadi Bodvarsson’s equaliser for Millwall in midweek – but on matchday 18 – they still have plenty of time to climb up the table and at least make their Championship status more secure than it currently is at this moment in time. For Reading fans, keep an eye out for former Royal Rob Dickie, who is likely to start at centre half today alongside Yoann Barbet in central defence – as part of a side who have conceded 25 goals already this season. This is the joint-second worst defence in the league, just one goal behind Coventry City.
In this part, I would usually discuss how I generally feel about the opposition, any injuries they have and where I think they will be at the end of the season. However, let’s talk about their stadium name. Kiyan Prince was a talented young player who was tipped to go on to great things as a football player, signing for QPR’s youth team. At just 15 years old in 2006, Kiyan was stabbed to death whilst trying to protect another boy from being bullied. 14 years on, knife crime is still a massive problem – but I hope his story and act of heroism has gone a long way to preventing even more deaths. To be fair to the football club, the re-naming of Loftus Road is a fitting tribute to an immortal figure at the club and he will live on to be an inspiration to many. Fair play to QPR for doing this.
For more information on his foundation, please visit: www.thekpf.com. And if there’s one thing I would want to say to any person: please leave your knives at home. One more knife off the street is a victory in itself.
Wednesday night was a major disappointment. Quite frankly, Birmingham City deserved to be ahead in that first half without doubt. We just could not get out the blocks - and although our performance improved in the second half - it wasn’t enough to prevent a loss. Some people would argue fatigue has (and will continue to) played a part in this defeat but for me, we just weren’t at it. One thing is for certain: the Royals need to respond very quickly if they are to stay with the pack. Can they do it? I’m not so sure - but the club have proved me wrong already this season.
As I’m writing this on Thursday evening, there have been no further updates on Yakou Meite and Lucas Joao. For both of them, their injuries didn’t look good at all. Joao could barely move by the end of injury time and Meite took quite a while to get off the deck, and at this stage, they are unlikely to start, with Andy Yiadom, George Puscas and Felipe Araruna also out. However, John Swift is on his way back from injury, which will be a timely boost for the Royals, although it is currently unclear exactly when he will be fully fit to play after returning to training this week.
The Last Meeting
Reading 1-0 Queens Park Rangers
A long-range strike from John Swift proved to be the difference between the two sides on Boxing Day last year.
Reading could have taken the lead several times in the first half, with Chris Gunter showing great intent early on to create two chances for the home side. However, the Royals did finally break the deadlock early on in the second half when Charlie Adam’s corner was on cleared as far as Swift, who fired a half-volley out of the reach of Joe Lumley to make it 1-0.
They would go on to keep hold of this league – and win the next two games against Preston North End and Fulham away from home to keep their playoff hopes well and truly alive, although QPR came close several times to an equaliser. The home side had Chris Gunter, Rafael and the woodwork to thank for keeping a clean sheet that day.
Here’s the starting lineup from the 1-0 win: Rafael, Blackett, Moore, Morrison, Gunter, Adam, Pele, Swift, Ejaria, Meite, Joao.
The Last League Match
Reading 1-2 Birmingham City
Jon Toral’s brace in the first half put Birmingham City 2-0 up before half time, in a game where Reading struggled to get out the blocks at the start. Despite this, I had a feeling we would get ourselves back into the game – and that’s exactly what we did when Andy Rinomhota’s cross was converted by Yakou Meite.
Scott Hogan should have put the away side 3-1 up from a one-on-one opportunity just after, before Yakou Meite was hauled down by Harlee Dean inside the box. Dean was sent off after receiving a second yellow and Lucas Joao had a golden opportunity to make it 2-2. However, he had his penalty well saved by Neil Etheridge and after that, the home side struggled to respond. Joao nearly made amends at the end after receiving an intelligent ball through from Tomas Esteves – but his dink went just wide of the post.
Let’s just make sure we respond to this defeat at 3pm!
- Queens Park Rangers have lost just two Championship home games so far this season.
- However, Rangers have failed to keep a clean sheet in any of their last seven league matches. Will the away side score again today?
- Reading have won just two of their last ten fixtures against QPR.
- The Royals have also just kept one clean sheet out of their last ten Championship fixtures. Can we keep a clean sheet this afternoon?
Likely Reading lineup: Rafael, Richards, Moore, Morrison, Holmes, Rinomhota, Laurent, Ejaria, Olise, Aluko, Baldock.
Well, we knew it would be tough for us if Lucas Joao sustained an injury. If his injury is as bad as first feared, we may need to change our system. One of the first things we found out about Paunovic when he first joined was how much he liked to tinker with different systems – and perhaps this could be useful today. Despite this, I have stuck with the current system and have made two (perhaps enforced) changes for today’s game.
Rafael stays in goal, with Omar Richards, Liam Moore, Michael Morrison and Tom Holmes. There will always be the temptation to bring Tomas Esteves back into the side to provide us with some attacking flair down the right – but Holmes has done well enough to start for me once again. Without Andy Yiadom, I believe this is the best possible back five we could field, even though Felipe Araruna did reasonably well at right back before his injury away at Cardiff City earlier on this season.
Andy Rinomhota and Josh Laurent stay in midfield, with Ovie Ejaria and Michael Olise also retaining their places in the starting 11. However, I have decided to go with Sone Aluko over Alfa Semedo this weekend – purely because of how much Aluko impressed me when we came on. He could also give us something different going down the wing, something we have been crying out for since Mo Barrow’s departure to South Korea.
Up front, we will need to find a way to get Sam Baldock into the game. Veljko Paunovic may decide to pair him and Jayden Onen up front to experiment a bit or operate Baldock as a false nine – but this is a game where it would have been ideal to have George Puscas available. But hey, we like a challenge. Let’s see how the gaffer handles this one.
Moving on to the score prediction, I will go for a 1-1 draw this afternoon. I’m not sure how we will score but by hook or by crook, I think we might just get ourselves on the scoresheet and I will just make one more prediction: Jayden Onen will make his debut and equalise for the Royals this afternoon. Since joining Reading, he has been impressive and it will only be a matter of time before he takes to the field. My predictions this season have been shocking as per, let’s hope this one turns out to be right.
Score Prediction: Queens Park Rangers 1-1 Reading
Other Championship Fixtures
All Saturday 12th December (3pm KO) unless stated:
Cardiff City vs Swansea City (12:30pm KO)
Birmingham City vs Watford
Blackburn Rovers vs Norwich City
AFC Bournemouth vs Huddersfield Town
Derby County vs Stoke City
Luton Town vs Preston North End
Middlesbrough vs Millwall
Nottingham Forest vs Brentford
Rotherham United vs Bristol City
Sheffield Wednesday vs Barnsley
Wycombe Wanderers vs Coventry City