Reading will be looking to prevent a third consecutive defeat this weekend, as they face Luton Town at the Madejski Stadium this Boxing Day.
On paper, the home side should be looking to take all three points - but this will be a tough test against Nathan Jones’ side - who have done well in this campaign and have already knocked us out of the Carabao Cup this season. The Royals also face the Hatters in the FA Cup next months, so this is the second of four meetings this season - but who will come out on top today? Let’s hope it’s the home side.
Here’s everything you need to know ahead of this festive tie in Berkshire, unfortunately, with no fans.
What? Championship Matchday 21
Who? Luton Town
Where? Madejski Stadium
When? Saturday 26th December
Opposition Manager? Nathan Jones
Injuries have really hampered us over the past couple of games, like they have for the past few seasons. Have we bought crocked players? Is there something happening in the fitness and conditioning department? Surely this is no coincidence anymore because it seems to happen at some point in every campaign. Whilst we should have performed a lot better in the first half against Brentford, having the likes of Omar Richards and Lucas Joao could have really helped us – and I even think we could have got something from the Norwich game if we had just a few of our injured players back.
On Christmas Eve, Miss/Mr/Mrs (delete where applicable) Exclusives brought us the news about Liam Moore - and he might be out for quite a while by the sounds of things.
So not the Christmas news anyone wants but I have been told that Liam Moore is injured and it’s going to be at least 6 weeks before we see him again #ReadingFc— ReadingFcExclusives (@ExclusivesFc) December 24, 2020
Let’s have an updated list of these players: Liam Moore, Lewis Gibson, Andy Yiadom, Felipe Araruna, Omar Richards, John Swift, Yakou Meite, Lucas Joao and George Puscas. Both John Swift and Lucas Joao could return in time for today’s game however, with Felipe Araruna seemingly not too far away either.
The January transfer window will also give us the chance to sign a few players, although Financial Fair Play rules and restrictions could prevent us from going all out and spending big. For me, that would be reckless – and I think Mr Dai will remain modest in this transfer window as the Berkshire side build on the progress they have already made so far in the 2020/21 season.
Luton Town: LDWLD
I think Luton fans will be quite happy with where they are currently at right now under Nathan Jones, the man who guided the Hatters to promotion from League One. The next step for them will be to establish themselves as a side who are here to stay in the second tier for the long term. I have a feeling they will do just that under Nathan Jones – and I can see him staying in Bedfordshire for many years to come. Last weekend, they held promotion challengers AFC Bournemouth to a 0-0 home draw, pretty impressive considering we conceded four against them not too long ago.
If there was one thing they would probably like to improve on in the short term though, it would be their attack. In their 20 league games so far this season, they have conceded just 21 goals which is not too bad, five less than their opponents today. However, Luton have only scored 17 goals which could become a problem if they start to concede more. One thing is for certain: they will perform a lot better at the Madejski Stadium this afternoon than they did in both league meetings with Reading last season. Their performance in the 5-0 defeat was particularly poor – and the Royals must not underestimate them in this clash.
The Last Meeting
Reading 0-1 Luton Town
After a 5-0 loss to the Royals in the latter stages of last season, Luton were looking for their revenge after the two sides were drawn together in the second round of this campaign’s Carabao Cup.
Jordan Clark’s header in the 24th minute from Rhys Norrington-Davies’ cross turned out to be the different between the two sides on the day, with Reading opting to field a reserve side in this match. And despite dominating possession on the night, I have to say Luton deserved to go through to the third round that night – and booked a date with Manchester United in the third round. The Red Devils won 3-0 at Kenilworth Road but it must have been a good experience for the Hatters, it’s just a shame no fans were allowed in at the time.
Before we move on, let me give you the starting lineup from that night: Southwood, Bristow, McIntyre, Holmes, Araruna, Watson, Tetek, Baldock, Aluko, McNulty, Puscas. We couldn’t even score with four forwards on the pitch…
The Last League Match
Brentford 3-1 Reading
All Reading fans knew this would be a tough game – but this had the potential to get really ugly after going 3-0 down inside half an hour.
Mathias Jensen scored the home side’s first in the 11th minute when he was played through, although Rafael simply had to do better there regardless of the deflection. However, there wasn’t much we could do for the second goal. What a strike by Bryan Mbeumbo – and although Tomas Esteves could have got slighter tighter to his man – it was a simply unstoppable strike. Just over five minutes later, he grabbed his second and Brentford’s third as the away side capitulated in the first half.
However, Reading’s second half response was heartening, albeit too late. Sone Aluko headed in from Michael Olise’s cross in the 64th minute to give the Royals a glimmer of hope – but it wasn’t enough to prevent another defeat. Let’s hope we can get something out of this afternoon’s game!
- Reading have taken just 11 points from their last 12 league games. Relegation form, that.
- The Royals are also unbeaten in eight of their last 10 competitive games against today’s opponents.
- Luton have failed to score in four of their last five games, although they did win 3-0 against Preston North End two weeks ago. This is a warning sign for the Berkshire side.
- The Hatters have also yet to score two or more goals in any away game in the Championship so far this season.
Likely My preferred Reading lineup: Rafael, Holmes, McIntyre, Morrison, Esteves, Rinomhota, Laurent, Ejaria, Olise, Onen, Aluko
Well, after praising Rafael the day before the Brentford game, he made a costly mistake for the first goal at the weekend as I said earlier on – and he will know that. Even though the ball seemed to deflect off Michael Morrison, the Brazilian had to do better there. He will get another chance though for me – but if he makes another mistake today – Paunovic may have a decision to make. I hope he does not drop him because Rafael has done very well since his arrival in the summer of 2019. Let’s just hope he can minimise the amount of costly errors he makes!
In defence, I have decided to only make the one enforced change, with Tom McIntyre coming in, although we don’t really have much choice do we? I would make another alteration though in switching Tomas Esteves and Tom Holmes. Esteves pretty much refused to use his weaker foot in West London – but probably offers slightly more going forward than Holmes. Esteves starts on the right for me, with Holmes slotting in at left back – but it would be good to have Omar Richards back as soon as possible. Andy Yiadom’s injury is also a massive source of frustration.
In midfield, Andy Rinomhota and Josh Laurent start again, with Ovie Ejaria, Michael Olise and Jayden Onen as the three behind the striker. Although I would start Alfa Semedo ahead of Onen in other games, it would be good to show some attacking intent as the home side this weekend as we look to get three points on the board. In all fairness, Semedo was half decent going forward when he first joined on loan earlier on in 2020 – but Onen could make a good impact.
Up front, we could see Sone Aluko operate as a false nine, with Lucas Joao still getting back to full fitness. The worst thing we could do right now is risk Joao with how important he is to the team. George Puscas could still be a while off a return yet, deepening our woes in attack. It would be good to see both Joao and John Swift on the bench though if they are fit to return to first team action. We haven’t seen Swift in months – and his presence in the first team is very valuable despite the rise of Michael Olise in recent times.
Score prediction time. In this festive period, I hope Luton will gift Reading a couple of goals after the Royals’ recent defeats. Every point is valuable at this stage of the season and on paper, we should win this match. However, no game of football is played on paper and we could easily lose this tie if we aren’t fully switched on. Our defence continues to worry me – but I hope we can get the win today. I will go for a 2-0 victory.
Score Prediction: Reading 2-0 Luton Town
Other Championship Fixtures
All Saturday 26th December (3pm KO) unless stated:
Barnsley vs Huddersfield Town
Blackburn Rovers vs Sheffield Wednesday
Bristol City vs Wycombe Wanderers
Cardiff City vs Brentford
Coventry City vs Stoke City
Derby County vs Preston North End
Nottingham Forest vs Birmingham City
Queens Park Rangers vs Swansea City
Watford vs Norwich City
The Middlesbrough vs Rotherham United game has been postponed due to a Coronavirus outbreak.