What a vital game this could be for our season – as we head to Bedfordshire on Saturday to play Luton Town at Kenilworth Road – with both sides desperate to win all three points.
Despite the Hatter’s current position in the Championship, they have been in decent form recently and will be full of confidence heading in to this weekend’s clash. The visitors are anything but full of confidence – with two losses and one draw since the restart for the Royals. Can the visitors improve on their 3-0 home defeat to Brentford?
Here’s all the facts and stats you need to know ahead of the big match this Saturday.
What? Championship Matchday 41
Who? Luton Town
Where? Kenilworth Road
When? Saturday 4th July 2020 (3pm KO)
Luton Town: DDDWD
If Luton Town can carry on their unbeaten run and turns draws in to wins, they have every chance of surviving this season. Against a Reading side that has struggled recently, the home side will fancy their chances in winning all three points under Nathan Jones this weekend. If they don’t win, it will be seen as a missed opportunity considering the fact they managed to draw 1-1 away to Leeds United in their last fixture.
Under Nathan Jones, they have drawn 1-1 against Swansea, picked up a 1-0 win at the Liberty Stadium against Swansea City and drew 1-1 away at Marcelo Bielsa’s Leeds. After a brilliant first spell at the club, Jones has returned to Bedfordshire with a bang. His time at Stoke City could have been damaging for his managerial career – now he is hoping to win the trust back of some fans at Kenilworth Road who were disappointed at the way he departed the club back in January 2019.
Tuesday’s result was very poor – and we need to improve if we are to secure a comfortable midtable finish at the end of the campaign. No wins since the lockdown restart can’t have done anything for our morale, so this is the time to get ourselves on the front foot and put the game out of doubt before Luton can get back in to it. The Hatters are a dangerous opponent and we need to be on the top of our game – let’s bounce back from midweek.
After being rested on Tuesday, Omar Richards could be set to return to the side in place of Jordan Obita, fully charged for this important clash. However, two key players in Andy Yiadom and Lucas Joao are still absent for this weekend and the side will be looking to welcome the duo back as soon as possible.
The last meeting
Reading 3-0 Luton Town
It took the Royals just over 20 minutes to take the lead, when John Swift’s corner was headed in expertly by Michael Morrison, who is in line to start again this weekend. Just under ten minutes later, Ovie Ejaria unleashed a great strike to double the lead and Sam Baldock nearly made it three before half time when he had a shot parried away.
The home side were dominant throughout the game and made it three ten minutes before the end when Garath McCleary converted a one-on-one after dispossessing Alan Sheehan. This was a brilliant display and the Royals will be hoping to replicate it this weekend to all but secure their Championship safety. A loss could put the Royals in even more trouble.
- Luton Town are unbeaten in their last six league games.
- However, they have scored just six goals in their last six – not the most impressive stat for a side in good form.
- Reading have lost just one of their last eight fixtures against Luton Town. This loss came in the famous 2005/06 season.
- However, the Royals have kept a clean sheet in just two of their 16 games in 2020 so far. This needs to improve.
Preferred Reading lineup: Rafael; Richards, Moore, Morrison, Gunter; Pele, Rinomhota; Olise, Swift, Masika; Meite
Let’s change it up this week. As opposed to doing the likely lineup, I have selected the players I would preferably like to see start this weekend.
Something needs to change – but what can we do to improve results? Playing five at the back is an option – but should we really play three central defenders against someone below us?
Rafael starts in goal once again ahead of Sam Walker and Coniah Boyce-Clarke – and the Brazilian has stepped up to the plate very well this season considering the void Emi Martinez left.
After missing out against Brentford in midweek, Omar Richards could be included in the starting eleven this weekend with Chris Gunter continuing on the right in Andy Yiadom’s absence.
The inclusion of Omar Richards has made my centre back decision a bit more complicated. Although I like Tom McIntyre, I feel we still need a bit of experience beside Richards and realistically, the last thing we should probably do is drop our captain at this stage. Tom McIntyre and Omar Richards in LB and LCB is a dream for us academy graduate enthusiasts – but perhaps not the very best option when we’re trying to secure our Championship safety.
Tyler Blackett is another option – but he operates better in a three at the back, something I have decided not to go for.
Although we have the ability to win with five-at-the-back – having five in that midfield battle instead could allow us to start off well on the front foot – something we desperately need to do. There was a temptation to drop Moore – but he starts alongside Michael Morrison again.
In the middle of the park, I hope Pele and Andy Rinomhota could make a real difference in breaking up attacks. On paper, Moore, Morrison, Pele and Rinomhota should be able to keep out many Championship attacks – whether it will work out on the pitch remains to be seen.
The presence of Pele will also give Rinomhota the license to drive forward with the ball when we win back possession, as well as John Swift who I’ve put in a more advanced position.
Michael Olise and Ayub Masika on the wings means Ovie Ejaria is omitted from this weekend’s lineup – and trust me – this has been one of the toughest teams to pick so far this season.
However, Ejaria is clearly not on top form right now and Olise has made himself hard to be dropped with some bright performances so far. There is no doubt we need to be careful with the 18-year-old in terms of rating him too highly – and we need to ensure he is effective enough on the pitch to warrant a place in the starting lineup.
Even though John Swift has adapted reasonably well to his deeper role in midfield, this game could give him a chance to roam freely around the pitch and make the sort of impact that made him such a popular figure in his first season at the club. It’s a shame that Michael Olise is out on the wing – but dropping Ovie Ejaria was hard enough without dropping John Swift as well.
Ayub Masika could give us something different out on the other wing. We desperately need someone to give us a boost – and the Kenyan could do just that. If I had my way, he would be trying to supply Yakou Meite with the service he needs as the sole striker.
We’ve tried Puscas and Baldock up top – now is the time to give Meite a go. He’s proven before that he can score goals up top. He really needs to step up and make a nuisance of himself if he is played up front on his own, could he be our saviour?
This could be a game where our bench is just as important so let’s choose the nine players who could come on this weeked: Walker, McIntyre, Osho, Araruna, Adam, Ejaria, Nevers, Baldock, Puscas
Tyler Blackett and Garath McCleary are other options but is there much point in choosing players who probably won’t be here next season? The same argument could apply to Osho – but there is more chance of him being here next season as opposed to Blackett. Maybe not including him in the matchday squad could come back to haunt us if someone gets injured – but I trust McIntyre and Osho to do a job.
Nevers could also bring some youthful energy in to the team – replacing McCleary on the bench.
However, I think our slippery slide down the table could continue this weekend – with major pressure on the Royals to produce a result.
Score Prediction: Luton Town 2-1 Reading
Other Championship fixtures
All fixtures Saturday 4th July 2020 (3pm KO) unless stated:
Charlton Athletic vs Millwall (Friday 3rd July 8:15pm KO)
Derby County vs Nottingham Forest (12:30pm KO)
Blackburn Rovers vs Leeds United
Brentford vs Wigan Athletic
Bristol City vs Cardiff City
Fulham vs Birmingham City
Huddersfield Town vs Preston North End
Stoke City vs Barnsley
Swansea City vs Sheffield Wednesday (Sunday 5th July 12pm KO)
Middlesbrough vs Queens Park Rangers (Sunday 5th July 2pm KO)
West Bromwich Albion vs Hull City (Sunday 5th July 3pm KO)