The first home fixture in the 2020/21 league season sees Gerhard Struber’s Barnsley travel to the Madejski Stadium, as both sides look to make the best possible start to their season.
Luton Town have been victorious over the two teams in the past week, although I have to say I’d rather be in our position right now as opposed to Barnsley, who must have been disappointed to lose a winnable match at home last weekend.
However, they did win 2-0 away from home at Middlesbrough in midweek’s Carabao Cup tie and they will be hoping to put in a similar performance this Saturday. This is set to be a fascinating fixture – will Veljko Paunovic’s side win another three points? Let’s see what happens.
Here’s everything you need to know ahead of this tie.
What? Championship Matchday 2
Where? Madejski Stadium
When? Saturday 19th September
Opposition Manager? Gerhard Struber
Despite the loss against Luton Town in midweek, I would have taken this scenario a week ago. Getting three points on the board was impressive, especially against Derby County who are reasonably decent on paper. Some people were surprised at the bench on Saturday, although a few signings go a long way to improving our squad depth.
How does this bench sound: Southwood, NEW FB, McIntyre (or Holmes), Pele (or Semedo), Riquelme, Meite, Puscas.
Not all of these players would be on the bench the entire season – but having the likes of Yakou Meite and George Puscas ready to come on can only be positive. Meite and Rodrigo Riquelme can come on against tiring opposition legs late on, with both having the potential to cause many problems on the wing.
Manager Gerhard Struber did an amazing job in keeping Barnsley up last year, although Wigan Athletic’s unfortunate situation did help them. The Austrian will have a big task on his hands if he is to keep the Tykes up again – and it’s safe to say they didn’t get off to the best start last weekend. Even though Luton have improved under Nathan Jones, this was a home game they needed to win. They will be praying their away win against Neil Warnock’s Middlesbrough will give them the boost they need going in to this tie.
After this game, Barnsley return to Oakwell to face Coventry City in another home game where they will be expected to pick up all three points. The Tykes will be hoping to pick up a win this weekend to settle the nerves though – and Reading will need to be wary of that.
We can’t underestimate them. When they’re in the mood to be dangerous, they can be just that.
The Last Meeting
Reading 2 – 0 Barnsley
Reading made the perfect start in the 17th minute when John Swift’s free kick was helped on by George Puscas in to the path of Yakou Meite, who managed to prod the ball home from a few yards.
However, this wasn’t a comfortable game for the Royals, with Michael Morrison’s mistake allowing Cauley Woodrow to get away, only to drag his shot wide of Rafael’s goal. Woodrow also had two shots at goal after a mistake from Jordan Obita, with Rafael making smart stops on both occasions.
The away side would rue these misses though, when George Puscas’ flick in the second half carved out a one-on-one opportunity, which he took expertly. This turned out to be the final home game for the Berkshire side before the country went in to lockdown.
Let’s just hope Reading fans can return to the Madejski Stadium sooner rather than later.
The Last League Match
Derby County 0 – 2 Reading
The away side dominated throughout this match and should have taken the lead early on when Lucas Joao’s saved shot fell in to the path of John Swift. The former Chelsea midfielder blasted it over the bar though, although this didn’t prove to be costly. Five minutes before half-time, Michael Olise’s corner was guided home by Lucas Joao at the near post.
Joao would also be involved in the second goal. Rafael’s great long ball was held up wonderfully by the Portuguese striker, who waited patiently for Ovie Ejaria to arrive – supplying a wonderful backheel that was converted by this summer’s permanent signing.
The Royals could have extended their lead further in the second half, with Swift squandering a great chance and Joao hitting the crossbar. I do feel sorry for the former – but I’m sure he will be in great form once he adapts back to a more advanced position.
- Reading have won just one Championship home game out of 11 so far in 2020. Can they improve that record this Saturday?
- However, the Royals are unbeaten in 12 of their last 14 games against this weekend’s opponents.
- Barnsley won just one league game out of their first 18 in the 2019-20 season and looked set for relegation before their great escape. Can they get off to a better start in this campaign?
- They did win 7 of their last 14 fixtures in that Championship campaign though – and will be looking to put last Saturday’s game behind them and get in to the form that kept them in the second tier.
Likely Reading lineup: Rafael, Richards, Moore, Morrison, Yiadom, Rinomhota, Laurent, Ejaria, Swift, Olise, Joao
As I write this match preview on Wednesday, we have yet to make any additional signings but there’s certainly no shortage in rumours. Nathan Phillips, Alfa Semedo, Pele, Rodrigo Riquelme, Fabio Martins and Pedro Mendes are all linked – although none are likely to be involved even if they sign before Saturday.
Tuesday’s fixture shows we do need a few signings for the sake of having strength in depth, with only a few players making their case to be more involved in the first team squad on Tuesday. Quite frankly, only one or two of the more experienced players made that case – and it’s now a strong possibility the same lineup from last weekend will start again on Saturday.
Although Luke Southwood made a few smart stops, Rafael is our established first choice and is almost certain to start again this weekend, along with Omar Richards, Liam Moore, Michael Morrison and Andy Yiadom in the back four. All five players performed very well last weekend and winning a clean sheet at Pride Park is not something to be sniffed it. Yiadom will be especially keen to keep another clean sheet this weekend against his former side on Saturday.
One player who deserves a lot of credit is Josh Laurent, who slotted in seamlessly alongside Andy Rinomhota and is proving to be a very smart signing. From his performances so far (both from pre-season and in competitive action), it looks like he will have no trouble at all in terms of stepping up to the Championship. Rinomhota has also done very well and brings a huge amount of the team. We can only hope he stays at the club for many years to come.
In last week’s podcast, I said the attacking midfield trio of Ovie Ejaria, John Swift and Michael Olise must be worth at least £20m combined. Add Lucas Joao to the mix – and we have four players who could frighten most Championship defences. The question is: can they all stay fit? If they can, we could have a great season.
However, keeping expectations down is important right now. Paunovic is still settling in and with new signings likely to come in over the next month, there is likely to be some disruption and tinkering before we can fulfil our potential on the pitch. Barnsley will be energised by their win in midweek – and I will go for a 1-1 draw this weekend.
Score Prediction: Reading 1 – 1 Barnsley
Other Championship Fixtures
All fixtures Saturday 19th September (3pm KO) unless stated:
Coventry City vs Queens Park Rangers (Friday 18th September 7:45pm KO)
Nottingham Forest vs Cardiff City (12:30pm)
Blackburn Rovers vs Wycombe Wanderers
Brentford vs Huddersfield Town
Luton Town vs Derby County
Middlesbrough vs AFC Bournemouth
Norwich City vs Preston North End
Rotherham United vs Millwall
Sheffield Wednesday vs Watford
Swansea City vs Birmingham City
Stoke City vs Bristol City (Sunday 20th September 2pm KO)