Reading are on the road again as they face Cardiff City in South Wales this afternoon, looking to atone for their defeat against Derby County in midweek.
They may be bottom of the table, but the Rams have been decent this term and proved to be too much for a Royals side still struggling with injuries. These injury worries won’t go away until the next calendar year with a flurry of players including Yakou Meite not expected to be back in the short term.
This afternoon, they come up against a side who are in a very sticky patch at this moment in time after recent hammerings against Blackburn Rovers and West Bromwich Albion, and will be desperate to put on a show in front of their fans after being booed against the latter at the Cardiff City Stadium on Tuesday night.
But will they produce a reaction sufficient enough to get past the Royals?
We don’t have the answer to that, but we do have everything you need to know ahead of this afternoon’s clash.
What? Championship Matchday 11
Who? Cardiff City
Where? Cardiff City Stadium
When? Saturday 2nd October
Opposition Manager? Mick McCarthy
The Bluebirds are in shocking form at the moment, losing four consecutive league games and really struggling to get going this season. Conceding 18 goals in 10 matches, their defensive record simply hasn’t been good enough and their backline will need to put in a solid performance if they want to get anything out of this game. Seeing them concede so heavily is a mystery to me, because you would think the likes of Aden Flint and Sean Morrison are two of the better players in the division.
Nonetheless, their attackers will also need to step up and reduce pressure off the defence and it makes you wonder whether they could go on and claim a much-needed victory if they can get the first goal. An early goal would probably be ideal - but attack might be the best form of defence for them this afternoon and it will be interesting to see how McCarthy approaches this match.
One more defeat and it could be curtains for him, so this will be a particularly important game for the Republic of Ireland international.
Wednesday night was a disappointment - but how they react to that against Cardiff is more important for me. Our first-half performance wasn’t actually too bad - it was the second 45 that was the most upsetting because we could have done so much more. Danny Drinkwater was half-decent again with his composure in the middle of the park and I was also impressed by Alen Halilovic, who wasn’t afraid to get himself involved. In fact, he was probably the most influential player out of him, Ovie Ejaria and John Swift.
We could really do with the likes of Yakou Meite and Lucas Joao to give us different options though. The former would have been able to make a decent impact off the bench as a different option down the wing - but he will remain out for the foreseeable future.
Scott Dann may also make his debut, though he admitted he wasn’t fully up to speed. With this and the need to keep him fit with no other centre-backs currently available, Veljko Paunovic may not risk starting him at the weekend. We do need a central defender though just to provide a bit of balance in defence and set Andy Yiadom free down the right.
One to Watch: Kieffer Moore
As a writer who covers the whole of the EFL, I’ve been slightly disappointed with Moore’s lack of impact this season.
Scoring 20 second-tier goals last term and making a good impact for Wales during the Euros in the summer, he was expected to be a vital asset for the Bluebirds again with former loanee Harry Wilson going back to Liverpool at the end of the last campaign.
He was even the subject of a £7m bid from Premier League side Wolverhampton Wanderers on transfer deadline day, although Cardiff currently value him at £12m with over 18 months left to go on his contract in the Welsh capital.
This is why it’s so disappointing to only see him score once in the Championship so far this season, although I hope it stays at one just for today (and the reverse fixture if he somehow fails to score until April).
He’s a tall, physical presence Reading need to keep an eye on though and someone who may start at 3pm after being on the bench in midweek’s 4-0 defeat.
The Last Meeting
Reading 1-1 Cardiff City
- Cardiff City have conceded nine goals in the past two games. It’s a simple stat - but a shocking one.
- The Bluebirds have also won just one of their home league games so far this season.
- However, the Royals have won just three points from a possible 15 in their Championship away matches thus far in 2021/22.
- They are unbeaten in their last 11 matches against Cardiff, probably a terrible omen for today.
My Reading lineup: Southwood, Rahman, Laurent, Dann, Yiadom, Drinkwater, Dele-Bashiru, Ejaria, Swift, Hoilett, Puscas
Judging from Alen Halilovic’s Instagram update, he’s probably injured unless he’s just sold me a complete dummy, which I hope he has.
Just me that thinks the criticism towards Luke Southwood for the goal is harsh? He is a little bit off his line, but the defender has to be dealing with that and the shot-stopper was reasonably solid throughout the game. If he’s at fault, I’ll say - but I thought he was fine at Pride Park.
Baba Rahman also starts again despite looking sluggish in midweek. He wasn’t terrible by all means, but he doesn’t look completely match fit. The good thing is he can only get better - and I’ve liked what I’ve seen from him so far anyway.
Scott Dann comes in for his first start if he’s fully fit alongside Josh Laurent, setting Andy Yiadom free down the right and potentially giving us a bigger threat out wide.
The defensive midfield also stays the same with Danny Drinkwater doing reasonably well again, with Tom Dele-Bashiru also likely to start again with Andy Rinomhota still out of action. I thought the latter would have been back a lot soon to be honest - but I guess that just sums up our injuries at the moment.
Ovie Ejaria and John Swift start as usual but Junior Hoilett comes in for Halilovic and that means George Puscas retains his starting spot up top.
Moving on to the score prediction, I reckon Mick McCarthy’s side will produce a reaction to recent performances and make life for us very difficult - but we could potentially get something out of this match with their leaky defence. 1-1 for me, sitting on the fence.
Score Prediction: Cardiff City 1-1 Reading
Other Championship Fixtures
All Saturday 2nd October (3pm KO) unless stated:
Coventry City vs Fulham (12:30pm KO)
Barnsley vs Millwall
Birmingham City vs Nottingham Forest
Blackpool vs Blackburn Rovers
AFC Bournemouth vs Sheffield United
Derby County vs Swansea City
Hull City vs Middlesbrough
Luton Town vs Huddersfield Town
Peterborough United vs Bristol City
Queens Park Rangers vs Preston North End