Reading return to Championship action this midweek, as they face Brentford at the Madejski Stadium at 7pm – a tough task for the Royals to negotiate.
The Bees came out on top when the two sides met last – scoring three goals in the opening half hour to all but seal the game before half time – but Reading will be looking to make a better start this time with their home advantage today. Brentford have not lost in the league since the reverse fixture, winning six of their seven Championship matches since that December tie and are on course to be promoted after playoff heartbreak last season. Will they get another win today on their quest to finally win automatic promotion this season?
Here’s everything you need to know ahead of this home fixture under the lights.
Important Match Information
What? Championship Matchday 28
Where? Madejski Stadium
When? Wednesday 10th February 2021
Opposition Manager? Thomas Frank
Although Brentford have been in scintillating form, Reading are also unbeaten in their last seven league games, last being beaten in the league by today’s opponents on December 19th. A strong defence has been key to this, which is a great reflection on Tom McIntyre who has come in and done a fantastic job in the absence of club captain Liam Moore. There is definitely room for improvement in the attacking third though after disappointing performances from the front four. You could even argue Stoke’s tactics helped to nullify Reading’s attacking threat but we will not get anything from tonight’s game if we put in a similar performance to Saturday afternoon.
The three players who missed out with injury against Stoke are set to be on the sidelines again tonight. Liam Moore is likely to return towards the end of the month, although it’s unclear whether he will get straight back into the starting lineup with McIntyre and Morrison forming a good partnership at the heart of defence. Felipe Araruna could potentially return to the matchday squad in place of Dejan Tetek when he is fully fit again, whilst George Puscas is likely to come back in for Sam Baldock, who is almost certain to leave Reading at the end of the season.
Brentford are unbeaten in their last 20 league fixtures and are, quite frankly, different gravy this season. After an understandable slow start with their playoff final heartbreak and moving into a new stadium, they have been exceptional recently and will look to continue this unbeaten run tonight against a fellow promotion challenger. They have scored 14 (yep, FOURTEEN) goals in their last three games, with seven coming against Wycombe Wanderers – and they have the league’s highest scorer in Ivan Toney available at their disposal. If this is any consolation to Reading fans, the Bees have failed to keep a clean sheet in their last five games in all competitions, so there’s a real chance for the likes of Ovie Ejaria, John Swift, Michael Olise, Yakou Meite and Lucas Joao to make an impact.
If any Brentford fans are reading this, I think you are on course for promotion this season – and you remind me of Reading between 2010 and 2012. We experienced playoff final heartbreak in 2010/11 when we lost 4-2 to Swansea City and had a slow start in 2011/12 – but won 15 out of 17 games in the latter stages of the campaign to win the title. The West London side have stuck with a good business model throughout their time in the Championship. However, they will face the tough choice between sticking with this or splashing out if they are promoted to the top tier. It will be a tricky task if so but they need to keep their eye on the ball for now – anything can happen in the Championship.
The Last Meeting
Brentford 3-1 Reading
Well, this game was pretty much over after the first half an hour.
Mathias Jensen scored the home side’s opener when he was played through in the 11th minute, although Rafael had to do better with his shot. However, the second goal was brilliant. What a strike by Bryan Mbeumbo – and although Tomas Esteves could have got slighter tighter to his man – it was a simply unstoppable strike. Just over five minutes later, he grabbed his second and Brentford’s third as the away side capitulated in the first half.
Reading’s second half response was very good though, albeit too late after a dire first 45. Sone Aluko headed in calmly from Michael Olise’s cross in the 64th minute to give the Royals a glimmer of hope – but even at that point – it was always going to be a major uphill battle to get anything from this one.
I hope we can learn from last time and make a quick start tonight.
The Last League Match
Stoke City 0-0 Reading
Could we do it on a cold Saturday afternoon in Stoke? Well, not really – but a point is a point.
Stoke City came the closest to breaking the deadlock on Saturday afternoon, when Steven Fletcher’s effort was ruled out for offside – and Jacob Brown’s header late on was saved well by Rafael. Although the home side were probably the better side on the day, they didn’t show enough threat on the day and you could even argue neither side deserved the win. The Royals on the other hand were strong defensively but offered little up front as they failed to build on their 3-1 win against AFC Bournemouth in the previous fixture.
Yakou Meite had the away side’s best chance in the last kick of the game but dragged his shot wide as the game finished 0-0. Perhaps we should always expect a boring clash at the bet365 stadium between these two teams.
- Reading have conceded just two goals in their last six league games. Over 540 minutes of Championship football – impressive.
- However, the Royals have lost their last three games against Brentford. Will the away side make it four this afternoon?
- Brentford are unbeaten in their last 20 league games. Lord help us.
- The Bees are also unbeaten in 11 of their 13 away Championship matches so far this season.
Likely Reading lineup: Rafael, Richards, McIntyre, Morrison, Holmes, Rinomhota, Laurent, Ejaria, Swift, Meite, Joao
After a lacklustre performance, I have made one change from the starting lineup that took to the field against Stoke City last weekend.
Rafael starts again after another solid performance in Staffordshire, with Omar Richards, Tom McIntyre, Michael Morrison and Tom Holmes remaining as the starting back four. Richards performed poorly in the first half although he did pick it up in the second 45 and will no doubt be one of Reading’s most valuable assets as we enter the last few months of the season. Please learn to take a throw in though please Omar!
On the other side, Holmes had a torrid time in the first half with much of Stoke’s threat coming down his side – but put in a brilliant second half performance and established himself as a man of the match candidate. Tom McIntyre and Michael Morrison were immense again at the weekend and will need to be on top form again against the likes of Ivan Toney, Sergi Canos and Tariqe Fosu.
Andy Rinomhota and Josh Laurent were not their usual selves against Stoke, certainty in the first half but I back them to get back to their best this midweek. Their places certainly aren’t under threat right now – but it’s a different story for the guys in front of them.
John Swift, Ovie Ejaria and Michael Olise could have all been taken off at half time the other day after struggling against the physicality of Stoke and the sloppiness of their own team. Olise has probably performed the poorest out of the three recently but let’s hope he can contribute heavily to this match, like he did against Bournemouth with his free kick being pushed into the path of Tom McIntyre to put the Royals 2-0 up. Yakou Meite comes in for Olise for me, with the substitute showing promise out wide after coming on for Swift. Ejaria may also face losing his place. He needs his mojo back and I hope it returns tonight because he’s an unstoppable force at the top of his game.
Up top, Lucas Joao gets the nod again, although I would be reluctant to play him in all games leading up to the next international break at the end of March. Yakou Meite could do a job up there at some point, with George Puscas out injured, Nahum Melvin-Lambert as an inexperienced option and Sam Baldock who clearly is not a lone striker.
Score prediction time. Yes, I did go with a 2-1 loss (my predictions are a shambles at this point) and yes, Brentford are unbeaten in 20 but it’s time for me to put some faith in my club. I have to say I can’t see us winning against Thomas Frank’s side. However, I will go for a 2-2. I can see us raising our game for this one after a poor performance in the last league fixture.
Score Prediction: Reading 2-2 Brentford
Other Fixtures This Evening
FA Cup Fifth Round Ties:
Swansea City vs Manchester City (5:30pm KO)
Leicester City vs Brighton & Hove Albion
Sheffield United vs Bristol City (Both 7:30pm KO)
Everton vs Tottenham Hotspur (8:15pm KO)