The Royals return to league action this weekend, as they take on Pep Clotet’s Birmingham City at St Andrew’s (or the Trillion Trophy Stadium for those who are a stickler for naming venues by their sponsor name).
Although Tuesday’s defeat to Sheffield United may have deflated the Reading camp, they have no time to mourn their loss as they need to secure a few more wins in order to guarantee their Championship safety. This weekend’s opponents sit just two points above the Berkshire side at this moment in time, despite being in a great vein of form recently. Both sides will be looking to win all three points, as we approach the final stages of the season.
Here’s all the facts and stats you need to know ahead of this clash in the West Midlands.
What? Championship Matchday 37
Who? Birmingham City
Where? The Trillion Trophy Stadium
When? Saturday 7th March 2020 (3pm KO)
League Form Record
Birmingham City: WDDDD
Remarkably, this weekend’s home side haven’t lost a league game since 1st January. What a year it has been for Pep Clotet and his men so far. After taking over from Garry Monk in the summer, he’s starting to justify why he’s the man to take such a big club forward. However, let’s not forget that Birmingham were also knocked out of the cup in midweek, and made the trip to Leicester City on Wednesday. Could this extra 24 hours of respite pay dividends for Reading?
Jeremie Bela, Jacques Maghoma and Josh McEachran were all absent from the game at the King Power Stadium in midweek, and could miss out again this Saturday. It looks like we may not have to deal with the threat of Bela’s free kicks this weekend, something we know all too well about from the reverse fixture a couple of months ago. I’m sure I join everyone else here in wishing the French winger a speedy recovery after he was taken off on a stretcher at Queens Park Rangers, although it’s reported that his injury may not be as bad as first feared.
Even though it was disappointing to exit the FA Cup on Tuesday, our result last weekend was more important. If we had lost, or even failed to win, against Barnsley, we would have been looking nervously over our shoulder. The relegation-threatened teams seem to be gaining more points this season.
Let’s compare it to last season. 41 points would have been enough to stay up in 2018/19, yet Middlesbrough are just three points behind this total right now with ten more games to go. Even though the Royals sit on 45 points currently, I can’t help but feel that we need a few more wins to ensure safety. Let’s get three points this weekend!
One big bit of news from GetReading’s webchat yesterday was the fact that Lucas Boye may not been seen in a Reading shirt again, as he attempts to recover from a hernia injury. It would be a major shame for Argentinian, who hasn’t made the impact in England that he would have wanted to. Meanwhile, Lucas Joao is pencilled in for a return after the international break, whilst Chris Gunter is also a few weeks ago from a return. There is good news for the Royals though – Tom McIntyre isn’t too far away from a return it seems.
The Last Meeting
Reading 2 – 3 Birmingham City
Although the game remained goalless until the 41st minute – the deadlock was broken in spectacular fashion. I have to say, that’s a top finish from Michael Morrison in to the corner. Unfortunately, it wasn’t in the right net and away side found themselves 1-0 up out of the blue. Don’t worry Michael, you’ve been a very good figure at the back so far this season. A good free signing I have to admit.
Despite this setback, Reading got themselves back in to the game just before half time, when Yakou Meite headed in from a corner. It was Birmingham City that would retake the lead in the second half though, and Jeremie Bela’s brilliant free kick stunned the Madejski Stadium crowd on the hour mark. The Blues would extend their lead withy barely a minute of normal time remaining, with Alvaro Gimenez taking advantage of an unfortunate deflection off Morrison to slot in and secure all three points for the away side.
Lucas Joao did pull one back for the home side in injury time, but it wasn’t enough to avoid defeat that day.
- This weekend’s home side are unbeaten in their last ten Championship fixtures, in a run stretching back to January.
- Clotet’s side have also failed to score in just one of their 11 league games in 2020. Can former Birmingham City defender Michael Morrison stop his old side this weekend?
- Another 11-based stat? Reading have won just two of their last 11 league matches against this Saturday’s opponents. Not a good omen at all.
- Reading have won just two of their 12 league matches in this calendar year: three wins, four draws and five losses.
Likely Reading lineup: Rafael, Obita, Morrison, Miazga, Yiadom; Rinomhota, Swift; Olise, Ejaria, Meite; Puscas.
After putting in a decent performance against Premier League side Sheffield United in midweek, Mark Bowen may opt to stick with the same eleven this weekend. As predicted, Rafael started against the Blades in midweek, and will start against this weekend with Obita, Morrison, Miazga and Yiadom other likely candidates to start in front of him.
Jordan Obita has played an impressive number of games since his return from that horrific long-term injury that kept him out for nearly two years. He’s more than likely to be battling with fellow academy graduate Omar Richards to keep his spot at left back next season. It’s a refreshing sight to see two of our own competing for a spot, something that this club is all about.
It will also be interesting to see who will be battling Andy Yiadom for a spot on the other side of defence. Will it be Chris Gunter? Will it be Tennai Watson? From the games that I saw the latter play under Jaap Stam back in 2016/17, he looked more than ready to step up to the plate. However, his lack of playing time at Reading in the past few years speaks volumes. Let’s hope he can revive his career here in Berkshire. He looked so promising!
Tom McIntyre may also become an even bigger asset to the first team when Matt Miazga returns to Chelsea in the summer. Whether we will make a permanent move for the American remains to be seen, but he’s had difficulty in large parts of this season breaking the Moore and Morrison partnership.
In midfield, Andy Rinomhota and John Swift looked to have nailed down their spots in the starting lineup, although the former will be wary that Pele will be ready to step up to the plate if he doesn’t perform to his potential. Michael Olise has also become one of the first names on the team sheet, and continues to show why he was worth tying down to a new contract last summer. If he can continue to be a big part of the team, the club may be keen to extend his contract further past the summer of 2022. He could start again this weekend.
Meanwhile, George Puscas is on a nice goalscoring run at the moment, although he didn’t manage to score in the reverse fixture in December. If he can keep scoring and playing well, the Romanian could take this momentum in to next season. Right, let’s get to the score prediction.
I’ll probably end up getting splinters from sitting on the fence, but we have a reasonably decent defence, and I fancy either Meite or Puscas to get on the scoresheet this weekend. We may not keep a clean sheet, but I’ll go for a 1-1 draw this weekend.
Score Prediction: Birmingham City 1 – 1 Reading
Other Championship fixtures
All Saturday 7th March 2020 (3pm KO) unless stated:
Nottingham Forest vs Millwall (Friday 6th March 7:45pm KO)
Bristol City vs Fulham (12:30pm)
Brentford vs Sheffield Wednesday
Charlton Athletic vs Middlesbrough
Leeds United vs Huddersfield Town
Preston North End vs Queens Park Rangers
Stoke City vs Hull City
Swansea City vs West Bromwich Albion
Wigan Athletic vs Luton Town
Derby County vs Blackburn Rovers (Sunday 8th March 3pm KO)