After disappointing defeats for both sides at the weekend, Reading travel to Ashton Gate this midweek to face Bristol City with another three Championship points up for grabs.
Nine points and eight places currently separate the two teams, both of whom will want to secure a playoff spot at the end of the season. The home side will need to be quick though as we reach matchday 30, with many teams still in the playoff mix. Who will come out victorious tonight? Let’s hope the Royals are – getting back on track will be important and help us to forget the Millwall game.
Here’s everything you need to know ahead of this important clash.
What? Championship Matchday 30
Who? Bristol City
Where? Ashton Gate
When? Tuesday 16th February 2021
Opposition Manager? Dean Holden
Bristol City: WLLLL
Winning 0 points from their last four games has been an absolute killer for Dean Holden’s side, especially with the playoffs now seven points away from them. Just one win would have taken them in reaching distance of Bournemouth in sixth place, now is the chance for redemption starting tonight. In all fairness to the Robins, their games against Brentford and Watford were always going to be hard, although the 6-0 thrashing against the latter must have damaged morale quite considerably. This was their last league game – and they will need to produce a reaction to the disappointing match at Vicarage Road tonight. Judging from social media, their fans are not happy at all right now.
It looks like our opponents tonight have also had an absolute nightmare with injuries this season, although with a more compact fixture list due to Covid-19 in 2020/21, was this always inevitable? For Reading, I believe it’s not just the busier schedule but also an underlying problem that has been going on for years in Berkshire. For Bristol City, their fans will have to judge that. Chris Martin, Tommy Rowe, Hakeeb Adelakun, Liam Walsh, Alfie Mawson, Steven Sessegnon, Jay Dasilva, Cameron Pring, Callum O’Dowda, Andi Weimann, Owura Edwards, Opi Edwards and Nathan Baker are all out at the moment. Walsh, Sessegnon and Owura Edwards may return to the first team quite soon though, so that’s some good news for City fans.
It really was an awful afternoon on Saturday. The referee was incompetent, Millwall’s playing style was ghastly and we completely threw the game away. It was a complete write-off but if we can respond in style this midweek, I think last weekend’s performance will be all forgiven. Paunovic and the players have been very good so far this season, giving me and many others a real escape from Covid-19 lockdowns and studying. At a time when the boys really need us, let’s get behind them as we look to secure a place in the top six. Playoffs has to be the aim this season and we will not be wanting to be looking over our shoulder in the latter stages of this season. Getting back in the groove will be key and we can only hope that starts today.
Reading seem to have no fresh injury concerns going into this one, with John Swift, Yakou Meite, Liam Moore, George Puscas and Felipe Araruna still on the sidelines. Without the five, the strength of our bench is limited and we will be hoping to see as many of them in the short term as possible. One player who is set to be out for a longer period is Swift, who has suffered heavily with injuries not just this season, but even since his arrival back in 2016. If Liam Moore’s road to recovery is still on track, he might be back in a couple of weeks which could be a huge boost for the team despite the good performances of Michael Morrison and Tom McIntyre.
The Last Meeting
Reading 3-1 Bristol City
After a goalless first half, it was the home side who took the lead ten minutes after the interval when Ovie Ejaria’s shot deflected heavily off Zak Vyner and into the Bristol City net. Reading missed several opportunities to double their lead, before Nakhi Wells (who else) bundled the ball home from a free kick with just over 15 minutes to go to equalise for the Robins.
However, the Royals responded pretty much straight away when Michael Olise’s scrumptious through ball allowed Yakou Meite to get in behind the away side’s defence and slot the ball home to make it 2-1, before Lucas Joao’s excellent turn and finish in stoppage team sealed all three points.
A repeat tonight would be lovely please.
The Last League Match
Reading 1-2 Millwall
Sometimes you have to face your demons and this is exactly what I’m doing in reviewing this game. Reading went in at half time 1-0 up, with Alfa Semedo capitalising on a mistake and humiliating Bartosz Bialkowski in the Millwall goal – and almost made it two before the break when Michael Olise played Lucas Joao through.
Despite this, the away side dominated in the second half and managed to grab all three points from goals through Matt Smith and Mason Bennett. Ovie Ejaria hit the post late on – but quite frankly – we didn’t create enough in the end and completely lost any momentum we had in the first half. Yes, the referee was poor and yep, Millwall’s style of play was an abomination but we have no one to blame but ourselves for that performance.
Let’s count this one as an off day and go into this game ready for redemption.
- Reading conceded more goals in their last two matches (5) than in their seven fixtures previous to this (3).
- The Royals have only won two of their last seven games against tonight’s opponents. More revenge to come tonight?
- Bristol City have lost nine of their last 12 league games, keeping a clean sheet in just one of those matches in this bad run.
- This is in stark contrast with their first 12 games in the campaign, winning seven, drawing two and losing three.
Likely Reading lineup: Rafael, Richards, McIntyre, Morrison, Holmes, Rinomhota, Laurent, Ejaria, Olise, Esteves, Joao
Despite my comments in the previous match preview at the weekend, Rafael played reasonably well at the weekend and was a calming presence at the back for the Royals when they were 1-0 up. This was exactly what we needed – but unfortunately we couldn’t hold on to the three points. The Brazilian had no chance with either goal and because of that, he starts again tonight. Come on Rafa, put in another decent performance in Bristol.
In defence, Omar Richards comes back in even though Lewis Gibson was one of the best players on the pitch on Saturday. We needed more width and attacking threat on Saturday to offer more going forward. With that threat going forward, the result against Millwall may have been different. Tom McIntyre and Michael Morrison start once again in central defence in the absence of Liam Moore, whilst Tom Holmes did more than enough at the weekend to start again tonight ahead of Andy Yiadom. Holmes was probably one of the best players on the pitch and his substitution was a bit baffling for me but what’s done is done.
Andy Rinomhota and Josh Laurent start in midfield, with Ovie Ejaria on the left, Michael Olise in the middle and Tomas Esteves on the right. Dropping Alfa Semedo was a difficult decision because he put in such a good shift and allowed Andy Rinomhota to drive higher up the pitch but I just feel Esteves could be deadly in front of goal if he’s given the license to get forward without the need to defend. This would also offer us the width we sorely lacked on Saturday.
Lucas Joao starts up front again, although it would be nice to give the forward a rest at some point. At the moment though, we have no choice other than to play him with Puscas and Meite both out with their respective injuries.
Score prediction time. Both teams will be desperate to bounce back after defeats at the weekend – but I can see the two sides sharing the points with both Bristol City and Reading desperate not to lose. I just hope this doesn’t result in a cagey game. I will go with a 1-1 tie.
Score Prediction: Bristol City 1-1 Reading
Other Championship midweek fixtures
Tuesday 16th February:
Preston North End vs Watford
Stoke City vs Sheffield Wednesday (Both 7pm KO)
Middlesbrough vs Huddersfield Town
Wycombe Wanderers vs Derby County (Both 7:45pm KO)
Luton Town vs Cardiff City (8:15pm KO)
Wednesday 17th February:
Coventry City vs Norwich City
Millwall vs Birmingham City
Queens Park Rangers vs Brentford
Swansea City vs Nottingham Forest (All 7pm KO)
Barnsley vs Blackburn Rovers (7:45pm KO)
AFC Bournemouth vs Rotherham United (8:15pm KO)