Reading will be looking to continue building momentum tonight after beating Rotherham United away from home at the weekend.
But against a decent opposition in Blackburn Rovers and our woeful home form recently, this will be a tricky task as we look to continue fighting for our place in the top six. Our opponent’s recent record has also been poor though – leading to their fall from just outside the playoff zone to their current 15th position – and surely Reading must be due a good performance at home? We can only hope so.
Here’s everything you need to know ahead of this evening’s fixture.
What? Championship Matchday 34
Who? Blackburn Rovers
Where? Madejski Stadium
When? Tuesday 2nd March 2021
Opposition Manager? Tony Mowbray
Saturday’s result was much-needed! However, however…... if we lose tonight, our hard work at the New York Stadium would almost be wasted. We need to build on this result and get back to our best if we want to retain our place in the playoffs. The gap between us and seventh has now been severely reduced and this race for the top six has the potential to go right down to the wire this season. After a brilliant start to the season, we can only hope our place in the playoff zone can be secured come the end of the season. In the playoffs, anything can happen. Secure a spot – and we’re three games away from the Premier League.
One player who could help us in our mission to do that is Yakou Meite, who has been sorely missed during his absence. We hoped he would return for the game at Rotherham – but I’m glad Veljko Paunovic is deciding not to rush him. The French winger has been a vital asset to the club in the last few years and if we can keep the likes of him and Joao fit and firing, who knows what could possibly happen? Felipe Araruna and Lewis Gibson are the other absentees and could both be a good option to have on the bench when they return. Could we possibly have a full fit squad in a week or two? I really hope so.
Blackburn Rovers: LLLLD
What has happened in Lancashire? In the first few months, I would have tipped them for the playoffs. Now? Probably not. Rovers have slipped up big time and although their five losses in the previous six games have all been by a one goal margin, they will be very disappointed with their February decline. In their last game against Coventry City, they did manage to stop the rot and at least pick up a point – and Blackburn fans will be hoping this will be the start of a better run of form. Quite frankly, it couldn’t get much worse.
Reading will need to be wary of Adam Armstrong, Ben Brereton and Harvey Elliott though, as Blackburn’s key danger men. I wouldn’t put it past Pauno to reintroduce four centre backs for this game but I hope he sticks with Omar Richards and Andy Yiadom. After all, Blackburn have not kept a clean sheet in six matches and I would be desperately disappointed if we didn’t score tonight, with or without Yakou Meite in the squad.
The Last Meeting
Blackburn Rovers 2-4 Reading
This turned out to be the final game in Reading’s remarkable unbeaten run at the start of the season – and they scored within the first ten seconds of the match when a mix up at the back allowed Yakou Meite to fire the ball into an empty net. If I’m right in saying, this was Aynsley Pears’ debut. What an absolute nightmare for him.
Blackburn did get back into the game a couple of minutes later through Adam Armstrong – but fell behind again when Michael Olise and Josh Laurent got in on the act to make it 3-1 to the Royals, after just 18 minutes. Armstrong grabbed his second midway through the second half but it was the away side that would strike last, with Lucas Joao curling his shot into the corner after a fantastic run. 4-2 Reading, eight games, just three goals conceded, 22 points on the board and seven points clear at the top of the table. If only we could go back to that time.
Here’s the lineup from night: Rafael, Richards, Moore, Morrison, Esteves; Rinomhota, Laurent; Olise, Semedo, Meite; Joao.
The Last League Match
Rotherham United 0-1 Reading
It was Michael Morrison who proved to be the difference at the New York Stadium on Saturday, as the Royals picked up a vital three points.
Omar Richards sumptuous cross allowed the central defender to get a header in, before he gobbled up the rebound and poked the ball over the line. Thank the lord for goal-line technology, although I hope the referee/lino saw that already. If not, it’s time for a trip to Specsavers.
In all fairness, this game could have easily gone either way – but the Royals managed to dig in and defend their lead even with Rotherham’s sustained pressure in the closing stages. It wasn’t a vintage performance but it was enough and you have to give the guys credit for bouncing back so well after a dire midweek performance against Wycombe prior to the match.
- Reading have lost their last three home games. Can we turn it around tonight against a side who are also out of form?
- 13 goals have been scored in the previous two fixtures between the sides. Madness.
- Blackburn failed to win any of their six league games in February, taking just one point from 18. Will the new month be a fresh start for Tony Mowbray’s side?
- Rovers have also lost nine of their 16 away league games so far in 2020/21.
My Reading lineup: Rafael, Richards, Moore, Morrison, Yiadom, Rinomhota, Laurent, Ejaria, Olise, Aluko, Joao.
It’s official – I have given up on my diamond dream. If you aren’t going to change your system after a defeat to a side bottom of the league (no disrespect to Wycombe), you never will.
Rafael starts again after putting in an assured performance against Rotherham. He did not have that much to do but what he needed to do, he did without error. Questions will be continued to be asked of the Brazilian if he makes more errors in the next few months but fair play to him for the number of clean sheets he has managed to keep. Let’s hope this gives him the confidence to go on and make some match-winning saves.
At full back, it was great to see Omar Richards and Andy Yiadom return. Neither had any problems defensively and the former was the one who supplied the cross for Michael Morrison to convert. Both should start again. One player who could count himself unlucky to be dropped is Tom McIntyre, who did a decent enough job at left back against Wycombe (barring the penalty) and formed a very good partnership with Morrison. However, I don’t think you can drop a centre back paring that keeps a clean sheet. Therefore, I have to say Moore and Morrison start again for me and they will be hoping to keep Adam Armstrong quiet.
In midfield, Andy Rinomhota and Josh Laurent should be reunited in the centre of midfield. In terms of Alfa Semedo, I like him – but I don’t think you can break up a partnership that has been such a key part of Reading’s season so far. Whilst Semedo is a better player in defensive midfield – it’s not worth putting him there if it split Laurent and Rino. This is one change I would like to see please Pauno!
Ovie Ejaria has been quite decent in the past couple of games and starts again on the left for me, with Michael Olise in the centre supporting Lucas Joao and Sone Aluko coming into the side to give us some width and in turn, increasing our attacking threat. Aluko’s performances have been hit and miss at times this season and how effective he is on the pitch can be called into question – but why not give him a go? However, I can see Semedo starting again this evening. Why start him against Rotherham and not against Blackburn, who were in and around the playoffs earlier on in the season?
Up front, Lucas Joao starts once again. It does look like he’s been lacking confidence recently – but even without his goals – you could see his physicality on Saturday was a nightmare for Rotherham to deal with. To be honest, I wouldn’t put it past him to get on the scoresheet after scoring in the reverse fixture and with Adam Armstrong up the other end, it promises to be a high scoring game. 2-2 is what I’m going to go with.
Score Prediction: Reading 2-2 Blackburn Rovers
Other Championship Fixtures
Tuesday 2nd March:
Cardiff City vs Derby County
Coventry City vs Middlesbrough
Huddersfield Town vs Birmingham City
Millwall vs Preston North End (All 7pm KO)
Nottingham Forest vs Luton Town (7:45pm KO)
Wednesday 3rd March:
Norwich City vs Brentford (5:30pm KO)
Queens Park Rangers vs Barnsley
Watford vs Wycombe Wanderers (Both 7pm KO)
Bristol City vs AFC Bournemouth
Sheffield Wednesday vs Rotherham United (Both 7:45pm KO)
Stoke City vs Swansea City (8:15pm KO)