Football is back!
The Royals take on relegation-threatened Stoke City this weekend, as the home side look to win their third consecutive league game in their quest to secure a respectable Championship finish at the end of the season.
With nine league games left to go, Reading are currently nine points above the drop zone, while Michael O’Neill’s side sit just three points above 22nd placed Charlton Athletic.
It has been a sad decline for Stoke over the past few years and let us not forget they were a fully established Premier League club not so long ago. Their main task for this season will be staying up, although they were in a much worse position at the start of the season.
Six points currently separate the two sides, but who will come out on top? Here’s everything you need to know ahead of the clash in Berkshire this Saturday.
What? Championship Matchday 38
Who? Stoke City
Where? Madejski Stadium
When? Saturday 20th June 2020 (3pm KO)
Our win at Birmingham City in the last league fixture was impressive – a near-perfect away performance. Michael Olise has done very well since coming in to the first team and has established himself as a starter under Mark Bowen.
If he does start in most of the remaining games this season, he may also find himself as one of the first names on the team sheet in the next campaign. At just 18 years old, this is a great achievement. Hopefully he can inspire the Royals to another win this weekend.
First of all, I’m sure you will all join me in wishing Lucas Boye and Michael Gilkes all the very best after both were reportedly diagnosed with coronavirus recently. The Argentine will be absent from this weekend’s game along with Andy Yiadom, who is out with a hamstring injury.
However, Lucas Joao is back in first-team action after having an extended period of time to recover – what a boost this is!
Stoke City: LWDDW
Stoke’s 5-1 hammering of Hull City in their last league game will have been a major confidence boost going in to this final run of games and is a warning for the Royals. It’s as simple as this: Reading will need to be on top of their game this weekend.
The Potters’ league position is hugely misleading and they are now on course to avoid the drop, after spending large parts of the season in the bottom three.
Joe Allen’s achilles tendon rupture is expected to keep him on the sidelines for this weekend’s game – and he would have missed this summer’s European Championships if it had still gone ahead. Will this have a detrimental impact on the Potters’ squad? Personally, I think Michael O’Neill has the expertise to get them over the line this season.
The last meeting
Stoke City 0-0 Reading
Long story short, neither side managed to register a legitimate shot on target and the home side had a goal disallowed for offside in the first half. Last season’s tie at Stoke also finished 0-0 – it must be something about this particular fixture.
This season’s meeting in Stoke came in December, with five points separating the two sides at the time. Reading were 18th after that game, with their opponents sitting in the relegation places.
In all fairness, their current position of 17th shows the impact that Michael O’Neill has had, although they would still count a lower midtable finish as a majorly disappointing season. They are definitely one of many sides in the Championship that need the end of the campaign to come as soon as possible.
A win for Stoke at the weekend would pull themselves further away from the relegation zone, whilst victory for the home side would all but seal Championship safety.
- Reading have won three of their past five league games. Can they continue to build on this against Stoke?
- However, the Royals are winless in their last six games against Stoke in all competitions.
- Stoke City have lost just three of their 12 league games so far in 2020. That’s a decent record for a side still firmly in a relegation scrap.
- What a remarkable turnaround for Michael O’Neill’s side, who failed to any of their first 10 league games of this season.
Likely Reading lineup: Rafael, Richards, Moore, Miazga, Gunter, Rinomhota, Swift, Olise, Ejaria, Meite, Joao
Trying to pick which left back will start was probably my hardest decision this week! Do we make use of Tyler Blackett while he’s here, or do we go with an academy graduate in Jordan Obita or Omar Richards? Both Blackett and Obita are out of contract this summer - with the latter more likely to put pen to paper on a new deal. However, I think Richards will start at the weekend.
Another player who did well before the pandemic (aside from Birmingham City’s goal in the last league fixture) is Matt Miazga. If he can retain his starting place for the remainder of the season, fans will be calling for Bowen to sign him on a permanent deal.
It’s also very encouraging to see Andy Rinomhota nail down a starting spot once again. Having the likes of Richards, Rinomhota and Olise all playing a major part in the senior squad is one of the reasons why I love supporting the club.
That’s why it’s such a shame to see Danny Loader in a contract saga. While he may not have set the Championship alight with his performances, he’s a promising player and one of our own.
If we can get the right combination of academy graduates and experienced pros (like Michael Morrison), with a sprinkling of flair that Ovie Ejaria and John Swift bring, we have the ability to stop the decline that has dogged the club in recent years.
The return of Lucas Joao could give the Royals a major lift going in to the final nine games of the season as well. I really do hope everything works out for him at the Madejski Stadium – he’s shown what he’s capable of earlier on this season - now is the time for consistency.
My predictions were been woeful in some of the games before the pandemic stopped football (critics would say woeful for the whole season), but I have a good feeling we may pick up all three points this week.
In all fairness, I did predict an away win at Leeds United, yet only go for a home draw against Barnsley just a week or two later. Logic has gone out the window for me at this point!
If we can win this tie, we will get to the 50 points mark. That’s important – let’s get there and then start preparing for next season. I’ll go for a 2-1 home win - with Joao getting himself in and amongst the goals.
Score Prediction: Reading 2-1 Stoke City
Other Championship fixtures
All Saturday 20th June 2020 (3pm KO) unless stated
Fulham vs Brentford (12:30pm KO)
Millwall vs Derby County (1pm KO)
Blackburn Rovers vs Bristol City
Huddersfield Town vs Wigan Athletic
Hull City vs Charlton Athletic
Middlesbrough vs Swansea City
Sheffield Wednesday vs Nottingham Forest
Luton Town vs Preston North End
Queens Park Rangers vs Barnsley
West Bromwich Albion vs Birmingham City
Cardiff City vs Leeds United (Sunday 21st June 2020 12pm KO)