Reading return to action this weekend after a long international break to face a struggling Barnsley side, with another three Championship points up for grabs.
The Tykes are currently struggling in the relegation zone, failing to replicate their form from last season thus far and looking like one of the favourites to go down as things stand. Many Barnsley fans would put their current failings down to Markus Schopp after such a poor start to the campaign - and he could face the axe with a defeat at the Select Car Leasing Stadium this afternoon.
His side will be desperate to improve on their current form though, making this a tricky tie for the home side who enjoyed a successful September.
What? Championship Matchday 12
Where? Select Car Leasing Stadium
When? Saturday 16th October
Opposition Manager? Markus Schopp
The right-back spot is my main area of concern going into tomorrow. With Felipe Araruna and Tom Holmes still out and Dejan Tetek’s status unknown after missing the Cardiff City match, it will be interesting to see who fills in if Andy Yiadom fails a late fitness test. Andy Rinomhota could potentially do a job, but there are no guarantees he will feature either. He is also expected to face a late fitness test.
The absence of Alen Halilovic and doubts over Junior Hoilett are also blows, but Josh Laurent could be set to return to the midfield which could allow Tom Dele-Bashiru to be pushed out wide.
This potential position change for Josh Laurent is due to Liam Moore and Scott Dann’s availability. Considering we had no fit options at centre-back just a few weeks ago, having the duo available to start is a major boost going into this tie. Dann will prove to be a shrewd addition with his Premier League experience and for all my criticism of Liam Moore, he was outstanding at the Cardiff City Stadium last time out. Another clean sheet would be perfect to build confidence in the backline.
Injury update courtesy of Wokingham.Today.
What a contrast from last season.
From being promotion contenders, they are now in real danger of being relegated back to League One unless they can drastically change things. The manager has to take a portion of the responsibility for their form, but the loss of three key figures in former boss Valerien Ismael, ex-captain Alex Mowatt and goalscorer Daryl Dike must have been a real blow in the summer. Still, they would have expected to be doing a lot better than they currently are and they will be in even more trouble if Derby County’s appeal against their points deduction is successful.
They are currently struggling with injuries too with the likes of Mads Andersen and Carlton Morris still out of action, two players who could have made a real difference this afternoon if they were fit and ready to play from the start. Josh Benson, who was touted as Alex Mowatt’s replacement, is also absent so the home side will be facing a very different Barnsley from the last time the two sides met.
One to Watch: Cauley Woodrow
Following the departures of Mowatt and Dyke, Cauley Woodrow has become the main man at Oakwell and arguably their most important player.
Getting into double figures in each of his three full seasons in South Yorkshire, the 26-year-old has been a consistent goalscorer for his current side and has managed to get on the scoresheet three times already this term.
As the new club captain, with Mowatt deciding to reunite with Valerien Ismael at West Brom, it’s his job to lead by example and against adversity, it would be no surprise to see him get amongst the goals again today.
He’s someone the likes of Scott Dann and Liam Moore will need to keep a close eye on if the duo want the Royals to win all three points this afternoon.
The Last Meeting
Barnsley 1-1 Reading
- Reading are unbeaten in their last eight meetings with this afternoon’s opponents.
- The Royals have also failed to score in just two of their 11 league games so far this season - a reasonably impressive record for Veljko Paunovic’s men who haven’t had a huge problem in getting on the scoresheet under the current boss during his tenure.
- Barnsley have failed to any of their last nine league games, in a torrid run stretching back to the middle of August. They have also failed to gain a single point from their last three.
- However, the Tykes have drawn three of their five league games so far this season. Can they frustrate the Royals?
My Reading lineup: Southwood, Rahman, Moore, Dann, Yiadom, Drinkwater, Laurent, Ejaria, Swift, Dele-Bashiru, Puscas
The goalkeeping choice is simple for this one, Luke Southwood gets the nod between the sticks. If Rafael is going to get back into the starting lineup, the international break was his opportunity to impress in training so it will be interesting to see who starts. Southwood has been pretty much faultless though, so he keeps his place.
Baba Rahman and Andy Yiadom start again as our only senior and orthodox options in their senior positions, providing the latter is fit. And considering Scott Dann and Liam Moore are both fit, they start as the centre-back duo in this one.
This will push Josh Laurent back into the midfield alongside Danny Drinkwater, and in turn pushing Tom Dele-Bashiru out onto the right with Alen Halilovic’s absence and doubts over Junior Hoilett. Another central midfielder in Andy Rinomhota is likely to be on the bench, although he could step in at right-back if Yiadom is ruled out.
TDB starts alongside John Swift and Ovie Ejaria as expected, with George Puscas up top.
We can only hope the international break has given the latter a chance to change his fortunes - because even though Jahmari Clarke scored a hat-trick earlier this week against Norwich City in the Premier League Cup - youth football is a different kettle of fish from Championship games. If I’m right in saying, Puscas also scored against Barnsley at the SCL back in March 2020, one of the last games before the Covid shutdown, so that should hopefully give him some confidence.
Moving on to the score prediction, I’m feeling a little less confident than I did at 11am yesterday. This game has the real potential to be banana skin with Schopp potentially facing the chop, so Reading need to concentrate throughout the 90 minutes to get three points in this one. Have a feeling George Puscas and Cauley Woodrow will get on the scoresheet, with John Swift also likely to get in on the act. I’m going with 3-1 to the Royals.
Score Prediction: Reading 3-1 Barnsley
Other Championship Fixtures
All Saturday 16th October (3pm KO) unless stated:
Fulham vs Queens Park Rangers (12:30pm KO)
Blackburn Rovers vs Coventry City
Bristol City vs AFC Bournemouth
Huddersfield Town vs Hull City
Middlesbrough vs Peterborough United
Millwall vs Luton Town
Nottingham Forest vs Blackpool
Preston North End vs Derby County
Sheffield United vs Stoke City
Swansea City vs Cardiff City (Sunday 17th October; 12pm KO)