After a narrow 2-1 loss to league leaders Norwich City, Reading face yet another tough test this weekend as they face playoff finalists Brentford this afternoon.
After coming so agonisingly close to the Premier League last season, the West London side experienced a mixed start to their campaign but have managed to mount another challenge for promotion as they look to go one step further and reach the promised land. For the Royals, their strike force is non-existent at this moment in time - and all the odds are against the away side - but can they spring a shock?
Here’s everything you need to know ahead of this tie in the capital, as we visit the Bees’ new stadium for the very first time.
What? Championship Matchday 20
Where? Brentford Community Stadium
When? Saturday 19th December 2020
Opposition Manager? Thomas Frank
For me, Brentford will come very close to winning promotion again. They will be in the top six with Norwich City, Watford, AFC Bournemouth and perhaps Swansea City – but whether they will be able to finally reach the Premier League remains to be seen. One thing is for certain: the Bees are a very well-run club and they will be hoping to have a very successful first season at their new stadium. I have to say I’m not sure about the seats – but their ground looks quite fresh and it will be good to see both teams in action there at 3pm.
Keep an eye out for Ivan Toney. After joining from Peterborough United at the start of September, the 24-year-old is currently the top scorer in the Championship. I had a feeling Teemu Pukki would score on Wednesday and, regrettably, I think Toney will get one or two today. I wish him all the best of luck for the rest of the season – just not today or in the reverse fixture. Stay fit, stay well – but please don’t score against us!
One positive for the Royals is the fact Ethan Pinnock is suspended for this game, after being sent off against Watford on Tuesday night. After seeing the incident, I think he’s quite unlucky – but he will be back with a vengeance.
Even though we did lose 2-1 in midweek, I felt we put in a decent shift and unlike previous years where there has been a lot of anger after losses, we could hold our head up high after that. This afternoon’s game will also be very difficult because of our current injury crisis – but we may just get an extra point or two out of each match if we continue showing a fighting spirit and a willingness to never give up until the final whistle. The match at the Kiyan Prince Foundation Stadium against Queens Park Rangers showed this – and we must not just coast along until the January transfer window opens. Picking up a few extra points before then could be the different between sneaking into the playoffs and just missing out.
Here’s a quick reminder of our current injury list: Andy Yiadom, Felipe Araruna, Omar Richards, John Swift, Yakou Meite, Lucas Joao and George Puscas. What a sorry state of affairs. Lewis Gibson is also out of this afternoon’s clash apparently, which it not good news for the Royals.
I’m hearing that we have another to add to the injury list tomorrow, Lewis Gibson is out of tomorrow’s game #ReadingFc— ReadingFcExclusives (@ExclusivesFc) December 18, 2020
There is one positive though. John Swift is edging closer and closer to a first team action and could return in time for our Boxing Day match against Luton Town. Felipe Araruna is also back out on the grass and could be a good option in central midfield and fullback as we head into the new year. What we desperately need right now though is a striker who can play on their own. Unfortunately, Sam Baldock isn’t that type of forward so he shouldn’t be receiving too much flack – and it’s also clear Alfa Semedo isn’t a striker either. An advanced midfielder? Maybe. A striker? Definitely not.
The Last Meeting
Reading 0-3 Brentford
I distinctly remember this game for the Twitter reaction post-match. At that point, people seemed to have had enough of Mark Bowen, in what was a poor performance for the home side. It wasn’t the scoreline which annoyed supporters - but the manner in which we lost. But after this game, we were unbeaten in our next three matches against Luton Town, Huddersfield Town and Charlton Athletic.
Regardless of other results in the remainder of the 2019-20, we thought this would be enough to see Mark Bowen through until at least the start of next season. How wrong we all were. And there is no doubt whatsoever the 5-0 win in Bedfordshire against Nathan Jones’ side glossed over this home loss as expected - but I really hope we can perform a lot better this afternoon - even if we do go on to lose.
The Last League Match
Reading 1-2 Norwich City
After seeing the team sheet at 7pm on Wednesday night, half of us thought Some Aluko would start up top and the other half thought defensive Alfa Semedo would start in a more advanced position. The latter were spot on with their prediction, although the Royals faced a mountain to climb when a rare mistake from Andy Rinomhota allowed Emi Buendia to fire the ball past Rafael. This lead didn’t last long though, when Sone Aluko’s cross found its way to Ovie Ejaria, whose shot deflected in off Michael Olise (and maybe Semedo?).
However, it would be the away side that would take all three points, when Max Aaron’s fell in the box under the challenge from Liam Moore. Teemu Pukki sent Rafael the wrong way with the resulting spot kick to seal all three points for Norwich, with Reading not having the firepower up front to hurt the Canaries’ defence. We face another difficult game this afternoon - and we need to show more up top if we are to get something from this match.
- Brentford are unbeaten in their last 12 Championship games. Not a bad record at all.
- The Bees have won just three of their eight home games so far this season though, or lost just one depending on how you look at it. Three wins, five draws and one loss - 14 points won out of a possible 27.
- Reading have won just one of their last six meetings against this afternoon’s opponents.
- However, the Royals have scored in all eight fixtures since the last international break, even with our current injury problems up front.
Likely Reading lineup: Rafael, Gibson, Moore, Morrison, Holmes, Rinomhota, Laurent, Ejaria, Olise, Aluko, Melvin-Lambert
We experimented with Alfa Semedo on Wednesday, an experiment which did not pay off - and the introduction of Sam Baldock didn’t exactly help matters either - so is it time for a surprise debut today?
Rafael continues to make up for previous errors this season, producing two wonderful saves in midweek, with Lewis Gibson, Liam Moore and Michael Morrison all retaining their places in defence as we look to keep a clean sheet. At left back, with Lewis Gibson seemingly out, we have the choice of playing Tom McIntyre, Tomas Esteves or Ethan Bristow. For me, I have to go with Esteves at left back. I worry about McIntyre’s agility and pace at full back, especially against a team like Brentford and with Esteves, we probably won’t have that problem.
In midfield, it would be good to give Andy Rinomhota and Josh Laurent a rest at some point - but both of them have to start again for me this weekend. Laurent was impressive yet again in midweek despite the loss and I hope Rinomhota hasn’t been too disheartened by his mistake, because he has been a reliable figure in the heart of midfield so far in this campaign.
Meanwhile, Ovie Ejaria, Michael Olise and Sone Aluko start as the attacking trio behind the forward - and I hope the latter can provide us with a bit of width to make up for the lack of attacking threat provided by natural centre backs Gibson and Holmes. The wing area is where we may need to invest in next month - and I wouldn’t be surprised to see someone come in as we look to get in behind Championship full backs.
Up front, I have decided to give Nahum Melvin-Lambert his Championship debut. He may not be the tallest forward or the most experienced for that matter - but we need an alternative to Baldock and Semedo. After making his first and only senior appearance for the Royals in the Carabao Cup tie against Colchester United, I really am throwing him into the deep end - but let’s see how he does.
As always, we need to get on to the score prediction. Blind optimism is my policy this afternoon. I have no idea where our two goals will come from - but we always seem to score so why can’t we get two? I have no doubt Ivan Toney will also get himself in and amongst the goals this afternoon - so I will go with a 2-2 draw this afternoon. This would be a great result for the Royals.
Score Prediction: Brentford 2-2 Reading
Other Championship Fixtures
All Saturday 19th December (3pm KO) unless stated:
Norwich City vs Cardiff City (12:30pm KO)
Birmingham City vs Middlesbrough
Huddersfield Town vs Watford
Luton Town vs AFC Bournemouth
Millwall vs Nottingham Forest
Rotherham United vs Derby County
Sheffield Wednesday vs Coventry City
Stoke City vs Blackburn Rovers
Swansea City vs Barnsley
Wycombe Wanderers vs Queens Park Rangers