Reading travel to Pride Park this weekend as the Royals play their first away game since the lockdown break.
A last-minute equaliser prevented the Berkshire side from taking all three points last weekend - and face an even trickier task as they face off against Phillip Cocu’s Derby County. Five points and two places separate the sides going in to this fixture, with the home team just three points off a playoff spot going in to the latter stages of the season.
Here’s everything you need to know ahead of this weekend’s away clash.
What? Championship Matchday 39
Who? Derby County
Where? Pride Park
When? Saturday 27th June 2020 (1pm KO)
Derby County: DLWWW
Although form has pretty much gone out the window with the restart, there is no hiding the fact that Derby have won their last three Championship league games. Last week’s hat-trick hero Louie Sibley was at the centre of everything at The Den at just 18 years old. This alone could force Mark Bowen in to adjusting his tactics ahead of the game this weekend. If the Rams can win this tie, it will only help to build momentum at this crucial stage of the campaign.
Jack Marriott is a doubt for this weekend’s game with a slight groin injury and manager Cocu has said he will monitor the striker over the next couple of weeks. Martyn Waghorn and Chris Martin stepped up last weekend with his absence, whilst midfielder Krystian Bielik will definitely miss out with a serious knee injury.
Conceding in the last minute against Stoke last weekend was frustrating – although that could go a long way in giving the Royals motivation for redemption going in to this tie. They have all but secured their safety and are on the verge of reaching the magic 50 points mark – although a playoff spot is now pretty much out of reach. Now is the time for the squad to pick up a few wins and make a vast improvement on their league finishes over the past couple of seasons.
Chris Gunter could fill the void that Andy Yiadom has left at right back again, although the Ghanaian’s absence is seen as more of a precaution than a major concern. Speaking of concern, Lucas Joao’s early departure from the Stoke City game was worrying to see and Reading supporters will be hoping to see him back in action soon. However, it looks like he’ll be out for around three weeks.
However, we may see the likes of Matt Miazga, Pele and Tom McIntyre return to the matchday squad, with an increased number of substitutions allowed in the current circumstances. The first two missed out against Stoke due to injury and fitness respectively, but should be available.
The last meeting
Reading 3-0 Derby County
Derby County’s fate was all but sealed in the fourth minute last December when last man Scott Malone barged Yakou Meite in the back. Malone was sent off – and Charlie Adam slotted the ball home to put the Royals ahead early on.
The Royals suffered a scare later on in the first half, when Derby broke through and only the post denied the away side an equaliser. However, Reading took control of the second half and Lucas Joao converted from a John Swift cross to double the lead.
The Rams hit the woodwork again shortly after – although they conceded another penalty late on when Craig Forsyth chopped down Joao. Meite took responsibility for the spot kick and made no mistake in making it 3-0, although there were questions over whether Forsyth should have also been sent off.
The full back only received a yellow, but on another day the Rams could have easily been reduced to nine men.
- Derby have only lost one of their last six league games.
- However, the Rams have only kept one clean sheet in their last eight Championship matches.
- The Royals have won three of their last ten games against Derby County, drawing three and losing four.
- Reading have only won four of their 14 league matches so far in 2020. Can the Royals improve this form to secure a respectable Championship finish at the end of the season?
Likely Reading lineup: Rafael; Richards, Moore, Morrison, Gunter; Rinomhota, Swift; Obita, Ejaria, Olise; Meite.
Well, I was not expecting that lineup last Saturday. That was very attacking, with Swift as the player who played deepest in the centre of midfield. For the sake of my nerves, I hope we decide to slot Andy Rinomhota or Pele next to him for this weekend’s tie, even though it was exciting seeing both Ovie Ejaria and Michael Olise play in the middle.
Rafael starts in goal as usual and Gunter will fill in for Yiadom whilst he’s injured, alongside Moore, Morrison and possibly Richards. Obita could also start at left back, although both may start again this weekend if Mark Bowen wants to stick with last Saturday’s setup.
This weekend, I have gone with Rinomhota alongside Swift as we try and build some momentum going in to next season. It’s unlikely we will be able to sign Pele on a permanent deal in the summer, although fending off potential interest for academy graduate Rinomhota may also present us with a challenge.
You could argue George Puscas should be given a go in Lucass Joao’s place – but Meite could help to try and fill the hole that the former Sheffield Wednesday striker has left in the centre, giving Michael Olise a chance to retain his place in the starting lineup. He could line up on the right and keep switching with Ejaria, with Obita on the left.
Despite these possible switches, I don’t think it will be enough to avoid defeat this weekend. Although it will probably be a close game, Derby may just have an edge over the Royals. The behind closed doors factor could be play a part – but I will go for a narrow 1-0 defeat this weekend.
Score Prediction: Derby County 1-0 Reading
Other Championship fixtures
All Saturday 20 June 2020 (3pm KO) unless stated:
Brentford vs West Brom (Friday 26th June 7:45pm KO)
Preston North End vs Cardiff City (12:30pm KO)
Barnsley vs Millwall
Birmingham City vs Hull City
Charlton Athletic vs Queens Park Rangers
Leeds United vs Fulham
Stoke City vs Middlesbrough
Swansea City vs Luton Town
Wigan Athletic vs Blackburn Rovers
Bristol City vs Sheffield Wednesday (Sunday 28th June 12pm KO)
Nottingham Forest vs Huddersfield Town (Sunday 28th June 2:15pm KO)