Top of the table Reading travel to the Welsh capital on Saturday, as they face Cardiff City away from home looking to build on their two opening Championship wins of the 2020/21 season.
After reaching the playoffs last season, Neil Harris’ side will be desperate to build on the progress they made last season and gain promotion to the Premier League once again. However, it will be a tough task for them with no fans to back them at home and the Royals will be looking to take advantage of that this weekend. But who will come out on top?
Here’s everything you need to know ahead of this tie at the Cardiff City Stadium.
What? Championship Matchday 3
Who? Cardiff City
Where? Cardiff City Stadium
When? Saturday 26th September
Opposition Manager? Neil Harris
Cardiff City: LW
After suffering a 2-0 home loss to Sheffield Wednesday on the opening day, the Bluebirds hit back last weekend and won 2-0 against Nottingham Forest at the City Ground. Kieffer Moore’s first half double was the difference between the two sides – and they did very well to keep a clean sheet in the East Midlands. 2-0 is still a dangerous scoreline for the side in the lead, so fair play to Sean Morrison and Curtis Nelson at the heart of defence for keeping it tight at the back.
Cardiff received a boost on Saturday when Joe Ralls returned to the side after missing the opening match of the Championship campaign. Lee Tomlin did miss out however, although he’s back in training and could feature at the weekend against the Royals. The club is also recovering from the shock departure of Nathaniel Mendez-Laing, after an alleged breach of contract. Despite this, they will be looking to move on from this as quickly as possible and build some momentum.
Two league games, two league wins. You can’t complain about that. Like many other people have said, you can only beat what’s in front of you – and we took full advantage of the red cards. There’s no doubt about the fact we did not play to our full potential on Saturday but that is what makes the 2-0 win more impressive. Even John Swift, who had another mixed game as he adapts back to a more advanced role, managed to get himself in the right positions numerous times and played a major part in the Tykes’ first red.
One bit of bad news from Saturday is Andy Yiadom’s absence. From Veljko Paunovic’s comments at the weekend, it sounds like the Ghanaian will be out for quite a while which is a major concern, although it does explain the rumours surrounding Perry Ng. Felipe Araruna put in a decent performance at the weekend and Tennai Watson will also be ready to fill in at right back – but recruiting another player for that position may not be the worst idea.
The Last Meeting
Cardiff City 3 – 3 Reading (1-4 pens)
This was a great FA Cup match. Six goals, academy graduates scoring and penalty shootout drama – a thoroughly enjoyable and exhilarating evening for Reading fans in the away end.
It was the home side that took the lead early on when Charlie Adam’s misplaced pass found its way to Josh Murphy, who fired home from outside the area. They doubled their lead ten minutes after the restart when a great ball from Will Vaulks was brought down by Robert Glatzel, finishing past Sam Walker with ease.
However, the Royals fought back 15 minutes later when Tyler Blackett’s cross was headed in superbly by Omar Richards – and they would equalise just before the 80th minute when Andy Rinomhota’s superb volley inside the box left Neil Etheridge in the Cardiff City goal with no chance.
A mistake from Gabe Osho in extra time allowed Murphy to grab his second, although Yakou Meite’s strike from Jordan Obita’s cross took the game to penalties. Sone Aluko converted the winning penalty after a couple of poor Cardiff penalties (with a good save from Walker), taking the away side through to the fifth round.
The Last League Match
Reading 2 – 0 Barnsley
After their opening day victory against Derby County, the home side were desperate to take six points out of six and that’s exactly what they did.
Reading did have to weather a storm early on, when Barnsley’s pressing game proved to be tricky to deal with and only a fingertip stop from Rafael prevented the hosts from going a goal down. The game did change just before half time though, when debutant Michal Helik was sent off after he brought down Lucas Joao.
This gave the Royals a major boost and Barnsley didn’t press anywhere near as much in the second half. Yakou Meite, who was brought on for Josh Laurent just before the hour mark, made an impact when he headed home from close range after a corner caused a scramble in the box. Less than a minute after the goal, Barnsley would be reduced to nine men when Mads Juel Anderson handled the ball in a very dangerous position for the Royals. After that, the game started to open up and Michael Olise doubled Reading’s lead in the 77th minute, when he volleyed home to score his first senior goal at the club.
The game finished at 2-0 – but was the first sending off worthy of a red card? The second booking for Anderson was fully justified without doubt but the debate will continue over what was a game-changing moment. It seems to be a 50/50 split.
- Since the coronavirus restart last season, Cardiff City have won eight out their 13 Championship games (including the playoffs), drawing one and losing four.
- Harris’ side only lost four Championship games at home last season, including the playoff home leg against Fulham. Impressive.
- Reading drew three of their four games against the Bluebirds last season, winning the other one.
- The Royals currently have the joint-best goal difference along with Blackburn Rovers in the Championship, keeping two clean sheets and scoring four goals in the two opening games.
Likely Reading lineup: Rafael, Richards, Moore, Morrison, Araruna, Rinomhota, Laurent, Ejaria, Swift, Olise, Joao
This is going to be a short predictions section this week. Keeping a consistent lineup will probably be Paunovic’s top priority, with Lewis Gibson only coming in this week.
Omar Richards will start again, after a brilliant performance last weekend helped to keep Barnsley at bay in the first half. Felipe Araruna also did well – and he is likely to start on the right hand side against, with Liam Moore and Michael Morrison working well in the middle at the moment.
Andy Rinomhota has performed very well and like John Swift, played a huge part in the first sending off last Saturday by putting in a vital block at the other end. Josh Laurent struggled to get in to the game in parts but I’m sure he will be impressive again at the Cardiff City Stadium, whilst Ovie Ejaria, John Swift and Michael Olise support Lucas Joao in attack.
Is there much else to say about the starting lineup? Not really, so let’s predict the bench, something that’s rarely been done in these match previews.
Predicted bench: Southwood, Gibson, Holmes, Aluko, Meite, Baldock, Puscas
I’m pleased to see Luke Southwood has established himself as the second choice goalkeeper at the club – and it’s also good to see Holmes on the bench for both opening league games. We can only hope he’s a permanent part of Paunovic’s plans going forward, with McIntyre possibly going out on loan.
Sone Aluko did quite well on Saturday in the final ten minutes and Yakou Meite obviously made a good impact - and both will probably be on the bench again this weekend.
Seeing where Gibson slots in will be fascinating – and I can see Moore pairing up with Gibson at some point during the season with Michael Morrison dropped to the bench. It would be quite harsh but we’ll have to wait and see what happens.
Moving on to the score prediction, I said it would be 2-2 on this week’s podcast. That is what I’ll stick with because it’s almost impossible to predict this game. Both sides will be fully up for this one.
Score Prediction: Cardiff City 2 – 2 Reading
Other Championship Fixtures
All fixtures Saturday 26th September (3pm KO) unless stated:
Huddersfield Town vs Nottingham Forest (Friday 25th September 7:45pm KO)
Watford vs Luton Town (12:30pm KO)
Wycombe Wanderers vs Swansea City (12:30pm KO)
Barnsley vs Coventry City
Birmingham City vs Rotherham United
Derby County vs Blackburn Rovers
Millwall vs Brentford
Preston North End vs Stoke City
Queens Park Rangers vs Middlesbrough
Bristol City vs Sheffield Wednesday (Sunday 27th September 1pm KO)
AFC Bournemouth vs Norwich City (Sunday 27th September 4pm KO)