It’s time for midweek action! Sheffield United are the visitors to Berkshire in this one as they look to revive their season against a Reading side that will be looking to build on their weekend draw against Nottingham Forest.
Both sides would have been hoping to be higher in the table than they currently are, especially the Blades who were one of the favourites to return to the Premier League but have struggled to adapt to life under Slavisa Jokanovic thus far.
They will be hoping to utilise their strength in depth in the forward department to blow the Royals away this evening, after firing a blank against Coventry City on Saturday and failing to test the Sky Blues backline enough until the latter stages of the tie.
For a tie that’s impossible to predict, this might be a close one between two sides with plenty of quality in their starting lineup, but who do you think will come out on top? Let me know in the comments.
For now though, here are the facts and stats you need to know ahead of this SCL night under the lights.
What? Championship Matchday 19
Who? Sheffield United
Where? Select Car Leasing Stadium
When? Tuesday 23rd November 2021
Opposition Manager? Slavisa Jokanovic
On paper, a draw against Nottingham Forest isn’t all that bad and considering we could have been 2-0 down early on in the second half, we’ll take that draw and move on. Tonight is another tough tie though - and we shouldn’t be fooled by the South Yorkshire outfit’s current position in the league.
The likes of Baba Rahman, Danny Drinkwater, Andy Carroll and Scott Dann all need to stand up and be counted tonight as players that have played at big clubs and have plied their trade in the English top flight. Carroll is unlikely to start tonight though, so another key duo in Ovie Ejaria and John Swift will be key in creating chances for the misfiring George Pusacs up top.
No one can afford to hide tonight though against the Blades who will be desperate to get some much-needed points on the board.
Looking at things from an outside perspective, manager Jokanovic doesn’t seem to know his best starting lineup or system as it stands (and this is coming from someone who’s a big fan of him). After trying to persist with the 4-2-3-1 formation, the 53-year-old finally buckled at the weekend and reverted to a back five, something United had become accustomed to under former boss Chris Wilder.
Expect to see Wes Foderingham in goal tonight in place of the injured Robin Olsen - and it wouldn’t be a surprise to see the back three of Chris Basham, Republic of Ireland international John Egan and Liverpool loanee Ben Davies start again, with the former performing particularly well in recent weeks. Enda Stevens and Jayden Bogle seem to be the two established options at wing-back at this moment in time.
An SCL return for Oliver Norwood may also be on the cards as he returns from his suspension, though John Fleck and Conor Hourihane can do a job in the midfield if needed. One thing that’s almost certain is the presence of Morgan Gibbs-White in an advanced midfield role, with Billy Sharp potentially starting as another returning former Royal.
It remains to be seen who lines up alongside the duo, with Rhian Brewster and Iliman Ndiaye both in with a shout of making the starting lineup. That just goes to show the depth they have in the striking area, although a winger or two will be needed if Jokanovic wants to go back to a flat back four and advanced wide men.
One to Watch: Chris Basham
It may be foolish to pick a centre-back as the one to watch considering how talented Gibbs-White is, but Basham played exceptionally well in recent games against Nottingham Forest and Coventry, showing exactly why he should be starting every game regardless of whether a back three or four is utilised.
Old boss Chris Wilder is interested in a reunion with the 33-year-old at Middlesbrough according to Football League World, so that’s one to keep an eye on if you love the Championship in general and not just Reading!
His contract at Bramall Lane runs out in the summer so it will be interesting to see whether the parties enter negotiations regarding a possible extension. He may be 34 in May, but he’s still performing to a high standard and it might not hurt to give him a new deal now rather than waiting until the end of the season.
Focusing more on the short-term, he is likely to provide a tough test to George Puscas up top - and it will be interesting to see how he measures up to the threat of Andy Carroll if the ex-Newcastle man comes on.
The Last Meeting
Reading 1-2 Sheffield United
- Reading have scored just three times in their last five second-tier games. Time for Carroll to make an impact?
- The Royals have also lost their last five meetings against tonight’s opponents.
- Sheffield United have kept just four clean sheets in 18 league games this term. Is this something the hosts can take advantage of this evening?
- The Blades have also scored just twice in their last four matches - a record they will be desperate to improve in Berkshire.
My Reading lineup: Southwood, Rahman, Moore, Dann, Holmes, Yiadom, Drinkwater, Laurent, Ejaria, Swift, Puscas
There’s not much to say really with just one change from my previous lineup, with Danny Drinkwater coming in for Tom Dele-Bashiru.
Tom Holmes was superb in the last game and deserves to take his spot at centre-back alongside Scott Dann and Liam Moore. The latter has endured mixed performances in the last two games, clearly being at fault for the goal at Birmingham and arguably needing to do better to stop Philip Zinckernagel for Forest’s opener.
Quite a few players needed to do better for the latter goal though, with Scott Dann flinching and Josh Laurent failing to put a foot in.
Both start though with Moore, as Baba Rahman and Andy Yiadom operate as wing-backs.
John Swift and Ovie Ejaria take up the more advanced positions - and George Puscas starts up top on his own again with Andy Carroll probably not fit enough to start just yet and alternative option Kelvin Ehibhatiomhan potentially not ready to be thrown in from the off.
Moving on to the score prediction, I don’t have a good feeling about tonight. Against a manager of Jokanovic’s quality and a strong Sheffield United side, I’m not so sure we’ll get anything out of this one despite their form.
I also wouldn’t rule out Brewster getting a goal after a slow start to his career at Bramall Lane - but let’s hope the boys can prove me wrong.
Score Prediction: Reading 0-2 Sheffield United
Other Championship Fixtures
All matches get underway at 19:45.
Tuesday 23rd November:
Blackpool vs West Bromwich Albion
Coventry City vs Birmingham City
Middlesbrough vs Preston North End
Nottingham Forest vs Luton Town
Wednesday 24th November:
Barnsley vs Swansea City
Blackburn Rovers vs Peterborough United
Bristol City vs Stoke City
Cardiff City vs Hull City
Fulham vs Derby County
Millwall vs AFC Bournemouth
Queens Park Rangers vs Huddersfield Town