Reading travel to the West Midlands this weekend as they take on Birmingham City, the final game for the former to stop the rot before the next international break.
Suffering four league defeats in a row, the Berkshire outfit are majorly struggling with their current injury crisis and look like a team that need this upcoming international interval, but will be desperate to end this period on a high after a torrid run of games.
With the Royals on a temporary decline, this afternoon’s opponents are heading in the opposite direction after securing three consecutive wins and look a force under Lee Bowyer this term after several seasons of mediocrity. Consistency will be key for them though if they want to push for a potential play-off finish at the end of the campaign.
The hosts will be the favourites this afternoon - but can they make their home advantage count against a weakened Reading side? We’ll soon see.
Here’s everything you need to know ahead of this 3pm tie.
What? Championship Matchday 17
Who? Birmingham City
Where? St Andrew’s
When? Saturday 6th November 2021
Opposition Manager? Lee Bowyer
Birmingham sum up the state of play in this season’s Championship, if I’m honest. During a campaign where the only consistency has been inconsistency, the Blues have displayed that but are now on a promising three-game winning streak. They will be hoping to capitalise on this run with another victory today - and on paper - they should be winning this tie.
With the home advantage too, they will be a bet many are relying on in their accumulators this weekend, even without Tahith Chong who has returned to Manchester United due to an injury.
Although the West Midlands side have been inconsistent, they look as though they have a long-term plan under Lee Bowyer, something they didn’t previously have and look on course to have a much better season after five seasons of mediocrity. Along with Stoke, they are ones to watch after managing to transform themselves from a tired club to one with a vision.
Speaking of tiredness, that word pretty much sums up our team at the moment.
We have started reasonably well against the likes of AFC Bournemouth and Millwall in recent games - but have failed to build on that and a lot of that is probably due to fatigue. It’s a shame, because we can’t accurately assess where we are right now with all these injuries and the effects it’s causing including this tiredness.
For other issues including the potential points deduction coming our way, I went through at work yesterday afternoon:
One to Watch: Troy Deeney
After such a long and successful career at Watford, returning home to the West Midlands must have been Deeney’s dream move and you can’t say he hasn’t earned it.
Starting his time with Birmingham in a frustrating fashion, trying too hard in training and not getting up to the performance levels required to be a regular starter in the early stages of his time under Lee Bowyer, he was unable to make an instant impact.
But he has seemingly managed to find his feet now and despite being in competition with Lukas Jutkiewicz, Scott Hogan and Chuks Aneke, he is now one of the first names on the teamsheet, grabbing himself two assists in midweek as the Blues beat Nigel Pearson’s Bristol City 3-0 at St Andrew’s.
Both Deeney and his side’s performance on Tuesday evening could be a sign of what’s to come this afternoon, so the Royals will need to be on the top of their game to keep the former Watford man at bay.
Scott Dann’s experience will be key in this quest.
The Last Meeting
Birmingham City 2-1 Reading
- Birmingham City have conceded just one goal in their last four league games - not good news for today’s visitors.
- Reading have won just one of their last six meetings with this afternoon’s opponents. Can they improve this record or will it just get worse?
- Both teams have scored in their last four meetings. The Royals have to end their drought at some point and Birmingham’s defensive record may worsen, so it might be worth having a BTTS bet on the go if you fancy. Warning: I’m not a betting man myself.
- The Royals have failed to score in their last three league games - a record that has given them no chance of getting back on track.
My Reading lineup: Southwood, Rahman, Moore, Dann, Holmes, Yiadom, Laurent, Dele-Bashiru, Ejaria, Swift, Ejaria, Puscas
After getting his first Northern Ireland call-up, it has to be Luke Southwood in goal again. He put in an assured display at The Den in midweek, not putting a foot wrong and making a particularly good save from Jed Wallace’s free-kick in the first half. Another faultless performance will be needed at St Andrew’s this afternoon.
I can’t help but feel we need to persist with a back five in the potential absence of Andy Yiadom too, with Tyrell Ashcroft probably doing enough to retain his place in the starting lineup. This means having Liam Moore, Scott Dann and Tom Holmes as the starting trio in the centre, with the latter coming in and performing reasonably well on his return. Like Ashcroft, he did enough to retain his place despite Tuesday evening’s defeat.
Baba Rahman starts on the left again as an attacking threat going forward. The left wing-back role seems to suit him - but he must also focus on his defensive duties if he wants his side to keep a clean sheet in the West Midlands.
Another Chelsea loanee in Danny Drinkwater probably won’t be risked from the start after missing the Millwall game, so Josh Laurent and Tom Dele-Bashiru start again in the middle. Let’s hope the former can get back to his best in this match, because he can be a game-changer when he’s on top form. Millwall’s assistant even admitted they changed things at half-time with the intention of trying to keep him quiet, showing how important he is to this Reading team.
In front of them, John Swift and Ovie Ejaria start centrally in an advanced position, providing as much creativity to George Puscas as possible. Having a goal ruled out in midweek, let’s hope he’s getting closer to getting a much-needed goal. That should then give him the platform to have a much brighter season in Berkshire.
Criticism is fine and probably deserved with his missed chances, but constantly taunting him won’t do him any good and it’s no wonder he’s deleted his social media considering some of the comments on him in recent days and weeks.
We’re all frustrated - but let’s continue to back the man.
Moving on to the score prediction, I can’t see anything else but a loss with our injuries and the Blues starting to get into good form. The fact they have Chong missing will be a blow for the hosts - but they have more than enough attacking options to blow us away today. I’ll go with a 2-0 loss.
Score Prediction: Birmingham City 2-0 Reading
Other Championship Fixtures
All Saturday 5th November (3pm KO) unless stated:
Barnsley vs Hull City
Blackburn Rovers vs Sheffield United
AFC Bournemouth vs Swansea City
Cardiff City vs Huddersfield Town
Coventry City vs Bristol City
Luton Town vs Stoke City
Millwall vs Derby County
Nottingham Forest vs Preston North End
Peterborough United vs Fulham
West Bromwich Albion vs Middlesbrough
Blackpool vs Queens Park Rangers (5:30pm KO)