Away side Reading will be desperately hoping to improve their form this weekend in Sheffield, as Mark Bowen endures the hardest chapter of his managerial tenure so far.
Sheffield Wednesday are also in a rough patch at the moment, and Garry Monk will be looking to make the most out of his home advantage this weekend. The sheer desperation for both sides to end their poor runs of form could make for a fascinating encounter, although both sides will have to vastly improve their performances if the game is to be an exciting one. Both sides will fancy their chances, but only one can be victorious this weekend.
Here’s everything you need to know ahead of a potentially tense encounter at Hillsborough this Saturday.
What? Championship Matchday 33
Who? Sheffield Wednesday
When? Saturday 15th February 2020 (3pm KO)
League Form Record
Sheffield Wednesday: LLDDL
The Owls have failed to win a league game since their 5-0 home drubbing to Blackburn Rovers last month. They have taken just one point out of a possible nine against relegation-threatened sides Wigan Athletic, Barnsley and Luton Town recently, something that will concern manager Garry Monk. After doing reasonably well up until Boxing Day, it’s looking like another mediocre season for the Sheffield side.
Morgan Fox has missed the past few games with an ankle injury, although he may recover in time for the visit of Reading on Saturday. The same applies to Massimo Luongo and Moses Odubajo, who also narrowly missed out on the matchday squad for midweek’s trip to Luton Town. One player who will definitely miss Saturday’s game is Steven Fletcher, who picked up a knee injury last month. He’s not expected to return to action until March.
Although the West Brom result doesn’t look disastrous on paper, the Royals put in quite a poor performance on Wednesday. If the home side had been in top form, the game would definitely have been there for the taking. Our key duo in John Swift and Ovie Ejaria didn’t step up in midweek, and it showed. Both are confidence players, and the club will need them to regain their confidence if the Royals are to avoid slipping further and further down the Championship table.
Chris Gunter is set for at least a month on the sidelines after suffering a groin problem against Hull City last weekend, in what is quite a blow for the away side this weekend. Matt Miazga and Tom McIntyre are still a couple of weeks away from being fit, whilst Lucas Joao also remains out through injury. Despite this, the return of Andy Yiadom is a huge positive for the Royals. He was definitely needed, especially with the absence of Welsh international Gunter. Danny Loader is also on his way back to full fitness, whilst it’s unclear whether Ayub Masika will be fit enough to make the bench at the weekend.
The Last Meeting
Reading 1 – 3 Sheffield Wednesday
The away side took the lead on the half hour mark, when Kadeem Harris fended off Liam Moore’s challenge to strike the ball past Joao Virginia and in to the Reading net. However, Reading levelled early in the second half, when a perfectly-weighted cross was emphatically headed in by Yakou Meite.
This was as good as it got for the Royals, who fell behind again just a couple of minutes later, when Barry Bannan’s corner was headed in to the back of the Reading net by Sam Hutchinson, in front of the delighted away supporters who had travelled down south. The home side had a glimmer of hope when goalkeeper Kieran Westwood was sent off for bringing down Mo Barrow, who was through on goal.
However, Lucas Joao had the final say in stoppage time and scored to seal all three points for Wednesday. This was just days before he completed a move to the Madejski Stadium.
- Sheffield Wednesday have won just one of their past nine league games. Can the Royals worsen this record on Saturday?
- The Owls have won just over a third of their Championship home games so far this season. Six wins out of a possible 15 at Hillsborough is a disappointing stat for the home side.
- Reading have failed to win any of their last six meetings against Sheffield Wednesday. Is it time for the away side to break this duck at the weekend?
- Reading have won just 25% of their Championship away games so far this season (4/16).
Likely Reading lineup: Rafael; Obita, Moore, Morrison, Yiadom; Pele, Rinomhota, Swift, Ejaria; Baldock, Meite
I can see Mark Bowen starting the same back four that featured in midweek, with Chris Gunter out injured and Tyler Blackett seemingly nowhere nearer to signing a contract extension. Jordan Obita has eased his way back in to the starting lineup nicely, with Moore and Morrison likely to be the centre back pairing even when Miazga and McIntyre both return from injury.
Michael Morrison has done reasonably well here in his first season at Reading, although he will need to keep his performance levels up if he’s to retain a starting spot in to the next campaign and beyond. Andy Yiadom also played reasonably well considering the fact that Bowen threw him straight back in to the deep end on Wednesday.
Meanwhile, Pele has become one of the first names on the teamsheet and is likely to start in a defensive midfield role once again, with Andy Rinomhota potentially coming back in to the side to replace new signing Felipe Araruna.
The Brazilian struggled at times in midweek, although this is understandable since his first start was against a side which currently sits at the top of the Championship table. You can also expect to see Bowen persist with John Swift and Ovie Ejaria – both who have been identified as Reading’s key duo this season.
George Puscas struggled up front on his own on Wednesday, something that the manager may have picked up in the game. Sam Baldock was surprisingly dropped to the bench, although he could return to the starting lineup this weekend. Yakou Meite performed better than Puscas against West Brom, and the French forward could take the place of the Romanian this weekend.
Despite these potential changes to the lineup, I don’t think it will be enough for the Royals to avoid defeat this weekend. I was leaning towards a 1-1 draw, but the home advantage may well pay dividends for Sheffield Wednesday this weekend. A narrow 1-0 win for them is what I predict, although Reading will always compete to stay in the game.
Score Prediction: Sheffield Wednesday 1 – 0 Reading
Other Championship fixtures
All Saturday 15th February (3pm KO) unless stated:
Hull City vs Swansea City (Friday 14th February 7:45pm KO)
West Bromwich Albion vs Nottingham Forest (12:30pm KO)
Birmingham City vs Brentford
Cardiff City vs Wigan Athletic
Charlton Athletic vs Blackburn Rovers
Derby County vs Huddersfield Town
Fulham vs Barnsley
Leeds United vs Barnsley
Middlesbrough vs Luton Town
Preston North End vs Millwall
Queens Park Rangers vs Stoke City