After a really poor performance on Wednesday night, this weekend’s meeting with Barnsley could be seen as a six-pointer.
With recent losses against Leeds United and Wigan Athletic, as well as our poor form overall in 2020, it was inevitable that we were going to slide down the table. If the home side don’t win all three points this weekend, anxiety over relegation will only increase. It’s time to capitalise on our home advantage and put in a performance that the crowd deserve. The standard of football at the Madejski Stadium hasn’t been good enough over the past few seasons, now is the time to go on a run of form and ease relegation fears.
We face relegation-favourites Barnsley this Saturday, and here’s everything you need to know ahead of this crucial fixture.
What? Championship Matchday 36
Where? Madejski Stadium
When? Saturday 29th February 2020 (3pm KO)
League Form Record
Wednesday brought us another woeful result in 2020. You always like to be optimistic, but we really need the three points this Saturday. Like I’ve said in many previous match previews, we desperately need a comfortable midtable finish. In the current form we’re in, we won’t be able to achieve that. The club as a whole also needs stability after what has gone on both on and off the pitch in the past couple of seasons. We need an identity, something that will bring fans back to the Madejski. Until we can create that feel-good atmosphere again, our attendances will keep plummeting.
Our lengthy injury list is no excuse for our poor form, but we really need the likes of Lucas Joao and Matt Miazga back to provide competition for spots. We need a club culture where no one’s starting spot is safe if they don’t perform up to standards. Tom McIntyre, with Miazga, could turn up the heat on Moore and Morrison. Ayub Masika and Ovie Ejaria were both available for midweek’s game, and both are likely to be involved in the matchday squad again. However, Lucas Boye is set to miss out again.
The Tykes are in great form at the moment. They have won their last three games, with their most impressive result coming away at Fulham. For a relegation-threatened team to come to Craven Cottage, keep a clean sheet and score three goals, that’s very impressive. This might be the perfect time for the club to win their fourth consecutive league game, with the home side in disastrous form at this moment in time. Gerhard Struber is working wonders, and they will find themselves out of the relegation zone sooner rather than later if they can keep up this good form.
Teenager Callum Styles will miss out this weekend as he continues his recovery from an ankle ligament injury. The former Burnley and Bury midfielder is highly-rated in Yorkshire, and will be looking to come back from this injury raring to go as he aims to fulfil his potential. However, goalkeeper Sami Radlinger is closing in on a return after suffering an injury at the start of the month.
The Last Meeting
Barnsley 1 – 1 Reading
Barnsley had the most clear-cut chance in the first half, although Rafael saved smartly to keep the scores level. Before that, Charlie Adam’s long-range effort was saved in what was the away side’s best attempt of the first half.
It would be the Tykes that would break the deadlock in the second half, all down to a catastrophic error. Rafael’s unwise pass to Michael Morrison encouraged Barnsley to press the defence, and the defender’s blocked pass found its way to Cauley Woodrow, who slotted home to put the home side 1-0 up. However, this didn’t last for long. Charlie Adam’s low corner deflected off a leg in the area in to the path of Lucas Joao, who made no mistake in tucking the ball home from six yards.
This was a disappointing night for the Royals, considering how they conceded the goal and the fact that they were favourites to come out of that night victorious. Although seeing Joao score is always encouraging, there was nothing else of note to be positive about that night. Positivity has been lacking around the club in recent years, and this result was just the tip of the iceberg.
- The Royals have won just one of their last ten league games. Not a good stat for the home side.
- However, Reading are unbeaten in their last five meetings with this Saturday’s opponents. Have I just cursed us? I certainly cursed us with the same stat in my Wigan preview…
- Barnsley won just one of their first 18 league games this season. The fact they are still in contention to survive this season is remarkable. A fourth consecutive league win this weekend would take them one step closer to doing that.
- In these three consecutive wins, they have kept clean sheets in all of them. This could be a real test for the Royals this weekend.
Likely Reading lineup: Rafael, Blackett, Moore, Morrison, Yiadom, Rinomhota, Swift, Ejaria, Masika, Meite, Puscas
Predicting these lineups with our poor form is getting harder and harder. What plan are we going to go for next? Lucas Joao would probably be a very useful player to have right now, especially considering his great form before his injury.
Tyler Blackett could come back in to defence, as the Royals look to shore up their defence. Keeping a clean sheet is always important, but the forwards need to take the pressure off the defence by scoring regularly. Is Puscas doing that? Is Baldock doing that? Not really. Both have shown flashes of what they can do, but we need a proven goalscorer and the likes of Swift and Ejaria to create enough chances.
You have to wonder whether Morrison or Moore would have been dropped by now if Miazga and McIntyre were fully fit and ready to take their place. On paper, they’re a solid Championship pairing. What has gone so wrong for the Royals? Another case in point is Andy Yiadom, there’s a reason why he was courted by Premier League teams when he was with Barnsley. We should be doing a lot better.
Andy Rinomhota could come back in to the starting lineup to provide more energy in the middle of the park. We also need options out wide. Step up: Ayub Masika. If he can cause problems for Championship full backs, then he’s doing his job. Quite frankly, he has nothing to lose at Reading. And because there’s no pressure on the Kenyan winger, he’s free to express himself and put on a show for the supporters. Football is just as much of a mental game as it is physical, and that lack of pressure could really pay dividends for the Berkshire side if he starts this Saturday.
George Puscas could also come back in to the starting lineup for the Royals, after being dropped to the bench in midweek. I back him to get on the scoresheet this weekend, although I fear this may not be enough to win the game. 1-1 is what I’m going with, but we need three precious points this weekend. Reading: it’s over to you now. Don’t let us down!
Score Prediction: Reading 1 – 1 Barnsley
Other Championship fixtures
All Saturday 29th February (3pm KO) unless stated:
Hull City vs Leeds United (12:30pm KO)
Blackburn Rovers vs Swansea City
Cardiff City vs Brentford
Fulham vs Preston North End
Huddersfield Town vs Charlton Athletic
Luton Town vs Stoke City
Millwall vs Bristol City
Queens Park Rangers vs Birmingham City
Sheffield Wednesday vs Derby Cotuny
West Bromwich Albion vs Wigan Athletic
Middlesbrough vs Nottingham Forest (Monday 2nd March 7:45pm KO)