After missing a penalty late on against Preston North End, Reading will be desperate to get back to winning ways tonight as they take on Jason Tindall’s AFC Bournemouth in Berkshire.
The Cherries mounted an impressive comeback to win 4-2 against this evening’s home side in November – but Tindall’s side have been in poor form recently and will need to take all three points away from Berkshire to get back on track. This sets up a mouth-watering tie that could be a vital match for both sides as playoff contenders, with just one place and two points separating the sides at this moment in time. Who will take all three points tonight though? Or is a draw on the cards?
Here are the facts and stats you need to know ahead of this one.
What? Championship Matchday 26
Who? AFC Bournemouth
Where? Madejski Stadium
When? Friday 29th January 2021
Opposition Manager? Jason Tindall
Although Sunday’s draw could be seen as a huge missed opportunity and a potentially crucial game in our season, it will be how we react from it which will determine how the rest of this season goes. After a setback earlier on in the season against Coventry, it took a while for us to get back to winning ways again but if we can win this match, it would be a fantastic result as we head in to a very busy February. And despite the away side’s recent poor form, any win against recently-relegated Bournemouth can be considered a big statement of intent. Perhaps this is the right time to play the Cherries.
There is good news on the injury front for the Royals as well. Andy Yiadom, who played for the U23s last week and Yakou Meite are in contention to return to the first team squad tonight after spending a considerable number of weeks out with their respective injuries, with Michael Olise and Lewis Gibson also available after both appearing on the bench at Deepdale. The return of Meite is especially good news – he could be a key figure in many of our upcoming games as a goalscoring threat as he competes for a place in the starting lineup with Olise, John Swift, Ovie Ejaria and Sone Aluko.
A more comprehensive injury update can be found in Jonathan Low’s report from Tuesday.
AFC Bournemouth: LWDLL
Despite recent losses against Luton Town and Derby County, the Cherries sit just two points behind Reading in sixth and will leapfrog the Royals with a win tonight. However, a loss could allow Middlesbrough and Bristol City to draw level with Bournemouth on 42 points at the weekend, putting Jason Tindall’s side in real danger of dropping outside the playoff zone in the following games after that. It’s hard to know whether the board at the Vitality Stadium would pull the trigger if that happened but if they can regain their form, there’s no reason why they couldn’t be challenging for an instant return to the Premier League.
They fielded a very strong side in the FA Cup against Crawley on Tuesday, including the likes of Jack Wilshere, David Brooks and Josh King. Wilshere and King managed to get on the scoresheet as they secured a narrow 2-1 win against the League Two side, taking them through to the fifth round and they will face Sean Dyche’s Burnley as both sides look to get to this season’s quarter final stage.
In the short term though, will fatigue play a part tonight? Reading will hope so.
The Last Meeting
AFC Bournemouth 4-2 Reading
Alfa Semedo’s was taken down by Asmir Begovic in the box early on, with Lucas Joao converting the penalty to put the Royals 1-0 up in the fourth minute against all odds. Unbelievably, the Royals would go on to double their lead shortly before half time when Ovie Ejaria’s through ball was slotted home by Sone Aluko. So far, so good.
However, two goals within a few minutes from Dominic Solanke and Arnaut Danjuma brought the home side level before the hour mark, in what was a spectacular capitulation by the away side.
Lewis Cook’s long-range strike made it 3-2 in the 77th minute, before a mistake from Rafael and Liam Moore allowed Solanke to grab his second just before stoppage time. After conceding two against Blackburn and three against Coventry, Preston and Stoke, this was the last thing we needed just after the international break.
Thankfully, we managed to stabilise the ship in our next game against Millwall - a game which ended in a 1-1 draw at The Den.
The Last League Match
Preston North End 0-0 Reading
In a first half where both teams had chances to go in front, neither Preston or Reading were able to make the most of it to give their team the advantage before half time. The away side had a couple of decent free kick chances, one of which was completely wasted by Sone Aluko right outside the penalty area, whilst Rafael prevented the Lilywhites from close range. Tom McIntyre actually did very well not to give away a penalty there - he could have easily dived in. It just goes to show how well did in this game compared to the reverse fixture.
In the second half, it would be Reading who had the best opportunity, with referee Geoff Eltringham correctly pointing to the spot late on for Joe Rafferty’s rugby tackle on Lucas Joao. The Portuguese striker picked himself up to take the penalty and sent Daniel Iversen the wrong way - but dragged his spot kick wide. From there, the Royals were unable to break the deadlock and the game finished 0-0.
Was it a point gained, or two points dropped?
- Reading are unbeaten in their last five league games, winning three and drawing two. Can we make that six tonight with three clean sheets in our last four Championship matches?
- The Royals have also won eight of their 12 home games in the league so far this season – a major improvement on our form at the Madejski Stadium compared to last season.
- AFC Bournemouth are unbeaten in 10 of their 13 away games in the Championship so far in 2020/21.
- However, the Cherries have taken just four points from a possible 15 in their last five league games. Are we playing the away side at the right time?
Likely Reading lineup: Rafael, Richards, McIntyre, Morrison, Esteves, Rinomhota, Laurent, Ejaria, Swift, Olise, Joao.
Rafael starts in goal again after putting in a few decent displays recently - let’s hope he doesn’t make another howler like he did near the end of the game at the Vitality earlier on in the season! His save at Deepdale on Sunday was vital - and I back him to do well again tonight.
Omar Richards starts at left back as per usual, with Tom McIntyre and Michael Morrison in central defence - and Andy Yiadom may come back in for me, although I wouldn’t be upset to see him on the subs bench gradually eased back in after a while out with injury. In that case, Tom Holmes and Tomas Esteves will be battling it out for a start at right back. Esteves offers more going forward and has improved quite a lot in recent weeks, but Holmes has been a steady figure at the back throughout this season. It’s a good dilemma for Veljko Paunovic to have - but I will go with Esteves.
Andy Rinomhota and Josh Laurent keep their places in midfield again, with Ovie Ejaria, John Swift and Michael Olise as the three in front of them. Olise has been struggling with the shoulder injury he picked up against Coventry City last Tuesday - but is likely to start again if he’s fit, leaving the likes of Sone Aluko and Alfa Semedo on the bench as two good senior options. Lewis Gibson also returned from injury on Sunday - and will be useful if we have a defensive injury tonight.
Up front, Lucas Joao starts as the only viable option we have at the moment with George Puscas out with a groin injury and Sam Baldock understandably not cutting the mustard up top on his own. Let’s hope he can respond well from his penalty miss at the weekend - it wouldn’t surprise me if he managed to get in and amongst the goals again over the next few weeks - and could perhaps get one or two tonight. An instant reaction would be ideal!
Score prediction time. Although Bournemouth have been in bad form, they will be desperate to make up for it and I can’t help but feel that may give them the edge in tonight’s game. We will also want to make up for the missed opportunity on Sunday - but the away side have the players and firepower to win and they may do just that. I will go for a 2-1 loss in this game, ending our unbeaten run - but I think we could do well in some of our upcoming games. Let’s hope the team can prove me wrong!
Score Prediction: Reading 1-2 AFC Bournemouth
Other Championship Fixtures
All Saturday 30th January (3pm KO) unless stated:
Norwich City vs Middlesbrough (12:30pm KO)
Birmingham City vs Coventry City
Blackburn Rovers vs Luton Town
Brentford vs Wycombe Wanderers
Cardiff City vs Millwall
Derby County vs Bristol City
Huddersfield Town vs Stoke City
Nottingham Forest vs Barnsley
Rotherham United vs Swansea City
Sheffield Wednesday vs Preston North End
Watford vs QPR (Monday 1st February 7:45pm KO)