Reading face a tough test this weekend as they face promotion contenders West Bromwich Albion at The Hawthorns, not the best place to be if they want to get three points on the board.
This afternoon’s hosts have been unbeaten at home in the league so far this season, winning six and drawing four of their ten matches and looking like a real force at home. Unfortunately, turning draws into wins has been a problem lately and they will be hoping to use a morale-boosting victory against local rivals Coventry City last time out to propel them to another three points today.
The Royals’ 3-2 victory at the Swansea.com Stadium late last month will be a warning to the Baggies ahead of them. The latter may be favourites - but are three points guaranteed today?
That remains to be seen - but here are the facts and stats you need to know ahead of this tie.
What? Championship Matchday 22
Who? West Bromwich Albion
Where? The Hawthorns
When? Saturday 11th December 2021
Opposition Manager? Valerien Ismael
Turning draws into the wins will be key if the West Midlands outfit want to challenge the likes of Fulham and AFC Bournemouth for an automatic promotion spot. They took the first step in doing that last weekend - but they must be consistent going into the winter window as they look to make a few additions.
A striker has to be at the top of their agenda with Jordan Hugill failing to impress at The Hawthorns thus far, because they have failed to be clinical enough in front of goal this season and that has cost them in some games. The style of play has also been a talking point - but their inability to be clinical needs to be fixed regardless. A central midfielder may also need to come in if Robert Snodgrass goes.
Last Saturday was a disappointment, but not a complete disaster. At the end of the day, we needed to show more going forward to win the game. The officiating was poor last weekend and there can be no denying that, but we didn’t create enough clear-cut chances to win the game and that’s why we didn’t claim all three points.
The fact we couldn’t penetrate Hull’s defence effectively was a real source of frustration because that was a winnable game. Grant McCann’s men may have been in good form and were bright in the early stages of the game, but they weren’t unbeatable and with the home advantage, we have to count that draw as two points dropped. Let’s hope they can respond with a point or three today, because that would be a major boost in our quest to continue pushing up the table.
One to Watch: Karlan Grant
Although the likes of Aleksandar Mitrovic and Ben Brereton Diaz will take the plaudits for their goalscoring exploits, Karlan Grant has also done well this season, scoring nine goals in 21 league appearances.
Callum Robinson may have stepped up earlier in the season, but it’s Grant that has been able to maintain his scoring form and considering he only scored one goal in 21 Premier League displays last term, you’ve got to applaud the way he’s bounced back.
The drop back down to the second tier will have helped, but it must have taken a huge amount of mental strength to get back in and amongst the goals again. Fair play to Valerien Ismael too, because he must have played a part in raising the 24-year-old’s confidence again.
He will be a real danger in the Baggies’ front three again today, so it will be down to the back four to stop him today. Coventry couldn’t last week - let’s see if we can.
The Last Meeting
Reading 1-2 West Brom
- As mentioned, West Brom have gone unbeaten in their ten league games this season, winning 22 points from a possible 30. Exceptional.
- However, the Baggies had only scored twice in their last five games prior to last weekend’s victory against Coventry.
- Reading are winless in their last four meetings against this afternoon’s opponents, with their last win at The Hawthorns coming in February 2010.
- The Royals have also failed to keep a clean sheet in their last nine league matches - a frustrating record for the visitors.
My Reading lineup: Southwood, Rahman, Dann, Holmes, Tetek, Laurent, Drinkwater, Swift, Dele-Bashiru, Halilovic, Carroll
Luke Southwood will know better than anyone else that he made a big error last week, but hopefully he can bounce back this weekend to put that behind him and win his side a point or three in this one, because that’s exactly what he did against Fulham. Another world-class stop or two may be required again this afternoon.
On the left, it has to be Baba Rahman again, who will need to play his part in taming Albion’s front three. The Ghanaian has been decent going forward, but his defensive work will be more important today.
Scott Dann starts alongside Tom Holmes in the centre once again - but Dejan Tetek comes in on the right to give Andy Yiadom a bit of respite. The latter may aggravate his injury if he starts again this afternoon, so giving him a rest to allow him more time to recover seems sensible. Dann can take the captaincy.
Josh Laurent is the man in the middle with John Swift and Danny Drinkwater in front - and we could potentially be relying on Chelsea loanee Drinkwater to lead the midfield and rise to the occasion in what will be a tricky test. Let’s hope Swift can rise to the occasion too, because he’s been a bit quieter recently. Then again, he’s only human.
Tom Dele-Bashiru was decent again on the wing and will keep his place as long as he can continue to be a wide threat, something we desperately need to give ourselves a different dimension going forward. And in Ovie Ejaria’s absence, it has to be Alen Halilovic out on the other wing.
Up top, Andy Carroll starts once again in place of George Puscas, though it would be nice to have the likes of Jahmari Clarke and Lucas Joao back soon as well. The latter may take a while to make his return though.
Moving on, it’s score prediction time. This is a game I should be predicting us to lose, but I just can’t this afternoon. Something’s telling me to go for something more optimistic so a draw it will be. It was 1-1 last time - and that’s what I’ll go for again.
Score Prediction: West Brom 1-1 Reading
Other Championship Fixtures
All Saturday 11th December (3pm KO) unless stated:
Huddersfield Town vs Coventry City (12:30 KO)
Birmingham City vs Cardiff City
AFC Bournemouth vs Blackburn Rovers
Derby County vs Blackpool
Hull City vs Bristol City
Luton Town vs Fulham
Peterborough United vs Millwall
Preston North End vs Barnsley
Stoke City vs Middlesbrough
Swansea City vs Nottingham Forest
Sheffield United vs Queens Park Rangers (Monday 13th December, 7:45pm KO)