Reading return to the Madejski Stadium after a disappointing midweek performance to face Mark Warburton’s Queens Park Rangers this afternoon.
After a very busy run of fixtures, this is the final game for both sides before the international break – and the home side will be especially desperate for three points after winning just one point from a possible six in their previous two Championship games. 12 points currently separate today’s teams, although QPR could reduce this to nine with a game in hand over the Royals. Who will step up and help their side to secure all three points today though? There has not been a draw at the Mad Stad so far in 2020/21.
Here’s everything you need to know ahead of this afternoon’s tie.
What? Championship Matchday 38
Who? Queens Park Rangers
Where? Madejski Stadium
When? Saturday 20th March 2021
Opposition Manager? Mark Warburton
Looking at that recent record, Reading have not done too badly recently. However, after previously saying the Notts Forest game was a point gained, our defeat at St Andrew’s makes it seem like two points dropped now. Those are five points we could have used to solidify our place in the playoffs, especially with the race for the top six continuing to heat up. With nine games to go and some tough fixtures still to be played, this could go right down to the wire this season. But we do seem to raise our game against some of the bigger teams, so hopefully we can show our class today and after the international break.
One positive we could take from Wednesday night is the return of Ovie Ejaria and Andy Rinomhota. With the duo, our bench looked so much stronger and although we were not able to capitalise on it at St Andrew’s, it can only be a great asset to us going into the final phase of the season. The international break will also give Michael Morrison a chance to recover from his injury after appearing in the Sky Sports studio for the midweek game. He probably won’t be included in the matchday squad this weekend even if he’s recovered, what’s the point in risking him in the final game before the break?
Queens Park Rangers: LWWLW
Like Reading, Queens Park Rangers have failed to blow teams away – and have not beaten any side in the league by more than two goals so far this season (let’s hope it stays that way this afternoon). However, they are in a much better place now than they were earlier on in the season and under a manager like Mark Warburton, QPR should enjoy some stability at the Kiyan Prince Foundation Stadium in the coming years. Having stability is underrated and for their sake, Rangers fans will be hoping to build something under their gaffer.
Ilias Chair will be one of their most dangerous players this afternoon, hitting the post in the reverse fixture and contributing heavily to their offensive cause, although he only came on as a substitute in their last game against Millwall? I have to say I was surprised at that. Former Royals Rob Dickie and Charlie Austin will also be available this weekend and after the way they left Berkshire, both will have a point to prove at the Mad Stad. Unlike Chair, both started on Wednesday and they are in line to start again today.
The Last Meeting
Queens Park Rangers 0-1 Reading
After losing Omar Richards in the first half to an injury, it looked like the Royals would face an uphill battle in the second 45 (credit to Lewis Gibson for his performance though after replacing the full back). QPR were there for the taking - but apart from one cross that missed Sam Baldock by a matter of inches - the away side didn’t really threaten for the majority of the game.
With just under 15 minutes remaining, Ilias Chair almost capitalised on a Reading mistake when his curling shot came off the inside of the post - and the Royals managed to survive somehow. The home side would go on to rue this miss.
Veljko Paunovic then opted to substitute sole striker Baldock for Tom McIntyre, which paid off in the 89th minute when his one-two with Olise allowed the 19-year-old Frenchman to unleash a world-class finish into the corner of the QPR net. And with five central defenders on the pitch, the Royals were able to see out his lead comfortably in the remaining minutes and secure a precious victory.
The Royals will be hoping to secure another three points today, the performance doesn’t matter. A win is a win and that is all we need.
The Last League Match
Birmingham City 2-1 Reading
After drawing at the City Ground last weekend, Reading made the worst possible start in the West Midlands and conceded inside the first four minutes when Lewis Jutkiewicz climbed over Liam Moore to head past Rafael. Was it a foul? Maybe, maybe not - but the Royals had a mountain to climb from there. And the signs were good for the away side when Yakou Meite got on the end of Michael Olise’s cross to make it 1-1 in the 35th minute.
However, Reading failed to improve on their dodgy first half performance and failed to create any major chances in the second half, with Harlee Dean heading in the winner from 12 yards in the 71st minute.
Should the Royals have had a penalty earlier on in the second half when Lucas Joao went down? I’ve seen them given - but at the end of the day - we just didn’t create enough chances to win the game. This is something we must improve on this afternoon, or we could be staring down the barrel of another defeat.
- Reading have managed to get on the scoresheet in each of their last five games. Can they keep this run going?
- The Royals are also unbeaten in their last four games against this afternoon’s opponents.
- Queens Park Rangers have won nine of their 14 league games so far in 2021.
- They are also unbeaten in 11 of their 17 away games in the Championship in 2020/21.
My Reading lineup: Rafael, Richards, Moore, Holmes, Yiadom, Rinomhota, Laurent, Ejaria, Olise, Meite, Joao.
After Wednesday night’s disappointing defeat, I have decided to switch back to a 4-2-3-1 and reinstate the Rino-Laurent partnership that has served us so well this season.
Rafa gets the nod in goal again. Some would say he should be collecting the ball for the first goal and that’s a fair criticism of him. His distribution was fine though and if Veljko Paunovic is happy enough with him in training, then it’s only right he starts. Unless the Brazilian sustains an injury, I can’t see Luke Southwood getting a go in goal this season. To be honest, the other only time he would get a go is if the final game is a dead rubber and we’re in a high-midtable position. Hopefully we’ll be in the top six - but we will have to wait and see.
At left back, Omar Richards didn’t offer much going forward and will be hoping to improve on that, but Andy Yiadom looked pretty classy again on the ball and both will start. Tom Holmes also gets the nod again alongside captain Liam Moore, who looked shaky at times against Brum. The Royals will be hoping to welcome Michael Morrison back into the first team squad after the international break though - and will be a great asset to have both on and off the pitch at such a crucial time.
In midfield, it might be a risk but Andy Rinomhota comes in with Josh Laurent in defensive midfield, re-establishing the impressive partnership that Keith Andrews was raving about on Sky earlier on this season. He had every right to, they have both been superb and should never have been broken up in the first place before Rino’s injury.
In the three in front of the duo, Ovie Ejaria also returns after his injury with Michael Olise in the middle and Yakou Meite on the right. Even out wide, I think the latter poses a real scoring threat to other teams in this division and gives us a brilliant right side with Yiadom also pushing up. This means Tom McIntyre and Alfa Semedo come out. Harsh on the duo but we must do what is best for the team.
Up front, Lucas Joao starts but will need to improve on his performance from Birmingham. Although he didn’t get any service, he just didn’t play very well overall. Hopefully, the Royals can create more this weekend and give him multiple chances to score. His goal against former side Sheffield Wednesday has not turned out to be the catalyst for an upturn in his form - perhaps a goal today just before the international break will be.
This game is really hard to predict but I have to back the boys this weekend. QPR have been very good recently - but hopefully we can raise our game against Mark Warburton’s side and take away all three points. I’ll go with a 2-1 win, with Joao and Meite getting the goals for the Royals. Then again, Wednesday night showed us practically anything can happen in the Championship - we need to be on the top of our game. Anything less than three points - and we will be in grave danger of slipping out the playoff zone.
Score Prediction: Reading 2-1 Queens Park Rangers
Other Championship Fixtures
All Saturday 20th March (3pm KO) unless stated:
Brentford vs Nottingham Forest (12:30pm KO)
Barnsley vs Sheffield Wednesday
Bristol City vs Rotherham United
Coventry City vs Wycombe Wanderers
Millwall vs Middlesbrough
Norwich City vs Blackburn Rovers
Preston North End vs Luton Town
Stoke City vs Derby County
Watford vs Birmingham City (All 3pm KO)
Swansea City vs Cardiff City (5:30pm KO)