Reading are on the road once again as they travel to South Wales to face Championship rivals Swansea City this afternoon, looking to take three points back to Berkshire.
The mood in the two sides’ respective camps couldn’t be any different right now, with today’s hosts performing well after a tough start to their campaign and climbed into ninth place on Wednesday night as they won away at Barnsley.
For the Royals, they will be hoping to atone for their disappointing 1-0 defeat to Sheffield United in midweek and with that, drag themselves away from the relegation zone after seeing their points deduction put them in a spot of bother. They arguably come into this match as underdogs though considering the Swans’ home advantage and the two sides’ contrasting form.
Can this afternoon’s visitors cause an upset though? We can only keep our fingers crossed.
Here’s everything you need to know ahead of this Championship clash.
What? Championship Matchday 20
Who? Swansea City
Where? Swansea.com Stadium
When? Saturday 27th November 2021
Opposition Manager? Russell Martin
After seeing Steve Cooper leave in late July, having guided them to consecutive top-six finishes, I have to admit I was a little worried about where Swansea was were going. But new manager Martin has been exceptional and is giving Swansea fans what they want: an attractive style of football.
They may have suffered a slow start to the campaign, but several key players including Matt Grimes and Olivier Ntcham have really stepped up to the plate and been exceptional this term - playing a big part in guiding them to ninth place in the table.
This is an impressive position considering the club is still in its transition phase - but they recruited very well during the summer and they are now bearing the fruits of that. A little bit more investment to compensate for high-profile sales in recent years would be ideal though - because the hierarchy at the Swansea.com Stadium haven’t spent enough for my liking.
The recruitment team have shown they can spend wisely - now it’s time to give them more funds to continue this revolution.
Well, that was a hugely disappointing performance on Tuesday. You can forgive their way of intensity after the John Fleck incident, and I wish him the best of luck, but the display before that was completely inexcusable and we will need to show a vast improvement if we are to get anything from today’s match.
Dropping Tom Holmes was puzzling and so was switching to a back four, so all eyes will be on Pauno when the teamsheet is released at 2pm this afternoon. Naturally, the players also need to take some of the responsibility for that showing as well, because it was unacceptable. And they will know that.
Looking at the lack of threatening wingers we have and the fact Tom McIntyre seems to be closing in on a return, going with a 3-4-1-2 formation would be ideal if our strikers can stay fit. That’s easier said than done - but whilst we have a decent amount of players at our disposal - we may as well take advantage of it and play a system that could make the most of what we have.
One to Watch: Joel Piroe
Tasked with filling the shoes of Andre Ayew and Jamal Lowe up top, Dutchman Piroe has been magnificent since his move from PSV in the summer.
Scoring 10 league goals in 18 displays for the Swans, he’s well on his way to scoring more than 20 this season and that will attract interest from Premier League clubs in the summer. He will only get better with more time under boss Martin too, so the hosts’ home fans will be excited to see him in action again today and for the foreseeable future.
He has played a huge part in the South Wales’ side’s rise to ninth, so they will be eager to keep him fit for the remainder of the season with fellow summer signing Michael Obafemi yet to fully adapt to life in the second tier.
Watch out for his link-up play with Jamie Paterson, because those two have been deadly together so far this season and will carve the Royals’ defence open if the away side’s defence isn’t on their A-game.
The Last Meeting
Reading 0-3 Swansea City
- Reading have failed to score in four of their previous six league games. Time to start Andy Carroll if he’s fully fit?
- The Royals have also failed to win any of their last 16 competitive meetings with the Welsh outfit, with our last victory coming in September 2008. Pretty sure this stat was wheeled out last season but it’s worth noting considering how poor our record against today’s opponents is.
- Swansea has 79% possession against Barnsley in midweek. A sign of what’s to come today?
- The Swans have also scored in seven of their last eight second-tier matches. They will fancy themselves to get on the scoresheet again with the likes of Joel Piroe and Jamie Paterson at their disposal.
My Reading lineup: Southwood, Rahman, Moore, Dann, Holmes, Yiadom, Drinkwater, Dele-Bashiru, Swift, Carroll, Puscas
Despite the changes I have made, Luke Southwood is one man who keeps his spot between the sticks. He hasn’t done enough wrong to lose his place just yet - and we can only hope he can make some match-winning saves today in such an important game.
Baba Rahman starts again as our only real option at left wing-back at the moment, although he does have to take some responsibility for the goal in midweek. He completely switched off as Jayden Bogle smashed the ball home at the far post - and will need to learn that lesson going into today’s game.
Liam Moore takes the captain’s armband again with Scott Dann and Tom Holmes alongside him, with the latter unlucky to be dropped against Sheffield United. And Andy Yiadom starts on the right.
Josh Laurent drops out as Tom Dele-Bashiru gets a chance in the middle with Danny Drinkwater, with the duo tasked with providing a shield in front of the back three and driving the Royals up the pitch. The combination of Drinkwater and Laurent doesn’t seem to be working at the moment, so trying something different may pay dividends.
Ovie Ejaria might feel unlucky not to get into this lineup (not that he reads it anyway lol) because there have been noticeable improvements in his defensive work in recent weeks. But is he effective enough going forward at the moment? Probably not - and that’s why I’ve gone with two up top.
I have to be fair and say that John Swift was also anonymous on Tuesday - and he’s definitely someone who could be taken off for Ejaria this weekend if he isn’t performing well.
Up top, Andy Carroll gets his first start alongside George Puscas, with Femi Azeez perhaps not yet ready to start after being an unused substitute in the Royals’ last outing.
Even with the changes, I can’t see the Royals getting anything out of this tie. The system on Tuesday didn’t work and changing to yet another new one will take time. With the attacking threat of Paterson and Piroe for the opposition, they will probably win this won narrowly. I’m going with a 1-0 loss.
The main message from me to Pauno though? Select one system and stick with it, barring more injuries.
Score Prediction: Swansea City 1-0 Reading
Other Championship Fixtures:
All Saturday 27th November (3pm KO) unless stated:
Preston North End vs Fulham (12:30pm KO)
Birmingham City vs Blackpool
Bournemouth vs Coventry City
Huddersfield Town vs Middlesbrough
Hull City vs Millwall
Luton Town vs Cardiff City
Peterborough United vs Barnsley
Stoke City vs Blackburn Rovers
Sheffield United vs Bristol City (Sunday 28th November; 12:30pm KO)
Derby County vs Queens Park Rangers (Monday 29th November; 7:45pm KO)