Top of the table West Bromwich Albion make the trip down to Berkshire this Wednesday, as the Midlands side look to extend their lead at the peak of the Championship.
Although they remain first in the second tier, West Brom have stuttered recently and will need to squeeze every point they can get out of all league ties going in to the latter stages of the season. After playoff disappointment last season, Slaven Bilic has managed to rejuvenate the side as they set their sights on achieving automatic promotion back to the Premier League. Can they do it? We’ll have to wait and see.
Here’s everything you need to know ahead of Wednesday night’s game under the floodlights at the Madejski Stadium.
What? Championship Matchday 32
Who? West Bromwich Albion
Where? Madejski Stadium
When? Wednesday 12th February 2020 (8pm KO)
League Form Record
Although coasting to the finish line with draws would be enough for the Royals to stay up this season, it would do nothing for morale. If we are to stop the club’s decline, we need to start picking up the wins that would do so much for our confidence. If this form continues for the remainder of the campaign, how close will Mark Bowen be from the sack? I wish Bowen all the best of luck and hope he does well here, but his lack of managerial experience will make fans worry if we tumble down the table. Fingers crossed for a better result this midweek.
Tom McIntyre is likely to be out for at least four weeks after suffering an injury against Cardiff City (league game), whilst fellow central defender Miazga remains on the sidelines for another few weeks. However, Andy Yiadom could return to the squad this Wednesday, although he’s unlikely to start. There are also concerns over Chris Gunter, who came off in the first half against Hull City at the weekend. Meanwhile, Lucas Joao continues to be a long-term absentee.
West Brom: DLLWW
Going on a seven match winless run between December and January will have no doubt panicked the Baggies’ fans, although they still remain in the driving seat to go up automatically in May. You always knew that Slaven Bilic was going to be a very good appointment with the CV that he has, and this shrewd decision may be one of the best managerial appointments made this season across England. After suffering playoff heartbreak against Aston Villa under James Shan last season, Bilic has done an amazing job.
Kamil Grosicki and Lee Peltier will be raring to go for the West Midlands side once again, as enthusiastic new signings looking to get off to a good start at the club. The importance of settling in to a promotion-chasing side quickly is so important. An example? Jason Roberts. Kieran Gibbs is also nearing a return to the first team squad, although Bilic may not want to rush the former Arsenal player back in to action too quickly.
The Last Meeting
West Brom 1 – 1 Reading
We thought this was going to be the turning point for Jose Gomes this season. In fact, the Royals followed this promising result up with a win. However, the referee could have easily given a penalty against Omar Richards early on in the reverse fixture, when we lunged in late on the edge of the box. On first glance, it looks like the West Brom player was looking for it. However, I have definitely seen them given.
Reading went up the other end and John Swift nearly put the away side ahead with a powerful free kick, only to be pushed away by the keeper. However, they did take the lead in the second half, when Ovie Ejaria was allowed to get a shot away. He needed no second invitation, powering the ball well out of Sam Johnstone’s reach to put the Royals 1-0 up with just under 20 minutes to go.
However, Reading didn’t take all three points back to Berkshire, conceding a penalty through goal scorer Ejaria with just a couple of minutes to go. Kenneth Zahore made no mistake from the spot and sent Rafael the wrong way. It finished 1-1, and the Royals fans were sent home gutted that they didn’t get all three points.
- Reading have failed to win any of their last six Championship league games. Is this the start of a slippery slope for the Royals?
- The Berkshire side have lost just two of their last ten meetings with West Bromwich Albion.
- Slaven Bilic’s side have only lost two of their 16 Championship away games so far this season.
- In these 16 away games, the Baggies have conceded just 13 goals. The Reading strike force may find it difficult to get past the likes of Semi Ajayi and Kyle Bartley this Wednesday.
Likely Reading lineup: Rafael, Obita, Blackett, Morrison, Moore, Araruna, Pele, Swift, Ejaria, Meite, Baldock
Although we performed quite poorly in stages against Hull City, I personally can’t see Bowen making a lot of changes. Araruna could come in for Chris Gunter at right wing-back if the Welshman isn’t 100% fit. Andy Yiadom may not be ready just yet to make a start, although I’m sure he will regain his place in the starting lineup when he returns to full fitness.
Pele continues to do well, as midfield partner John Swift attempts to stamp down his authority as a key player in all of Reading’s Championship games. Ovie Ejaria also needs to get himself in and amongst the goals once again, with Sam Baldock and Yakou Meite working up top aiming to cause the strong West Brom defence a number of problems.
The bench could be key for the Royals if they’re looking for inspiration in the second half. Ayub Masika may appear in the matchday squad for the first time since his move from Beijing Renhe, whilst George Puscas will be hoping to make a good impact off the bench as he tries to force his way back in to the first eleven.
However, any inspiration that comes from the bench may not be enough for the Royals, who are currently in a bad spell of league form. If West Brom can carry out their job professionally, they could come away with a reasonably comfortable 2-0 away win this Wednesday. That’s the prediction I’m going for – let’s hope I’m wrong!
Score Prediction: Reading 0-2 West Bromwich Albion
Other Championship fixtures
All Wednesday 12th February (7:45pm KO) unless stated:
Bristol City vs Derby County
Huddersfield Town vs Cardiff City
Luton Town vs Sheffield Wednesday
Millwall vs Fulham
Stoke City vs Preston North End (8pm KO)