After two wins in their last two, Reading will be hoping to win at the Mad Stad again as they face Sheffield Wednesday this afternoon.
Tuesday night’s result was much-needed and although the performance wasn’t exactly sparkling, Reading need to keep picking up points as we approach the final two months of the season. With a busy schedule and recent performances, will they have enough in the tank to secure a playoff place? A win against today’s opponents will be needed again. One point is simply not enough.
Here’s everything you need to know ahead of this clash, with three precious points up for grabs.
What? Championship Matchday 35
Who? Sheffield Wednesday
Where? Madejski Stadium
When? Saturday 6th March 2021
Opposition Manager? Darren Moore
As I said at the start, our performance against Blackburn wasn’t ideal, it wasn’t perfect, it wasn’t vintage. However, all that matters in the short term is the three points and the one great chance we had is one we converted. In the longer term, I would like to see us grab games by the scruff of the neck and dominate them for long periods. This can only help us on our quest to secure a place in the top six and with the home advantage again today, which has not been an ‘advantage’ over the past couple of seasons in all fairness, we must take control of the tie. Any win is very important - but for the sake of my fingernails - let’s make games a bit more comfortable.
One bit of bad news from Tuesday night was the first half injury to Michael Morrison, although Tom Holmes slotted in very well for the remainder of the game. Liam Moore seems to prefer playing on the left-hand side and I can see Holmes starting again alongside the captain. Another key player in Andy Rinomhota also missed this game through injury, with John Swift, Yakou Meite, Felipe Araruna and Lewis Gibson on the sidelines as well. However, Meite and Gibson should hopefully be back in the squad today – and we will be hoping Morrison and Rinomhota make a speedy recovery. Hopefully, it will not end up coming down to this – but we do have an international break soon if they are out until the end of this month.
Sheffield Wednesday: LLLLL
Like our opponents on Tuesday, Sheffield Wednesday have had a torrid last month – summed up well by their last-minute loss to Rotherham United in midweek. The Millers even had a man sent off and despite Wednesday equalising after that, Freddie Ladapo’s wonderful shot in the 97th minute (ouch) clinched the win for the away side. After appointing Tony Pulis as their manager, I thought Wednesday would be safe for another season – but even his appointment didn’t work out. From the outside, I have heard comments about Wednesday’s owner not being too clever but I hope they can stay up after their demoralising six-point deduction (reduced from 12) at the start of the campaign. Please don’t pick up a point or three tonight though, I’m begging.
Let’s remember Darren Moore is now in charge of the Owls after leaving Doncaster Rovers for the Championship. The former West Brom manager will be desperate to get his first point(s) on the board in the fight against relegation. They are currently seven points adrift from safety with one game on 20th and 21st placed Coventry and Birmingham. Rotherham, who are also still in the relegation zone despite Wednesday’s win, have two games in hand on the West Midlands duo and are three points behind them. All in all, it isn’t exactly looking promising for Moore’s side – but anything could happen at both ends of the Championship in the final couple of months with many games still to play.
The Last Meeting
Sheffield Wednesday 1-1 Reading
After going behind early on from a Callum Patterson header, Reading had a man advantage soon after when Liam Shaw was sent off for a dangerous challenge on Omar Richards. There was no real malice in the challenge, that’s for sure. However, if you give the referee an option of sending you off, they’re probably going to brandish a red card on the balance of probabilities.
Another controversial moment proved to be decisive for the Royals. Omar Richards was involved again – and he went down under the challenge of Kadeem Harris to win a free kick just outside the box. Was this a foul? Not for me, but again, Harris gave the referee an option by putting his hands on Richards (to be fair, I would have been furious if I was a Wednesday fan). The resulting free kick was headed in by Lucas Joao, who kept his celebrations to a minimum against his former club.
In the second half with a man advantage, Reading really should have secured all three points. Whilst we didn’t test Wildsmith in goal enough for my liking, the Royals did show attacking intent and should have had at least two penalties, possibly three.
The one thing both sides can agree on was how atrocious that referee really was in that game. I don’t like blaming the officials - but he made several wrong game-changing decisions. I just hope there’s less controversy surrounding today’s referee in this clash.
The Last League Match
Reading 1-0 Blackburn Rovers
A mistake from Harvey Elliott cost Blackburn dearly as Reading were able to pick up another three points on Tuesday night.
The Liverpool loanee was dispossessed near Blackburn’s 18-yard box by Omar Richards, allowing Lucas Joao to set up George Puscas and the Romanian made no mistake to put Reading 1-0 up in the 24th minute. In the second half, the home side almost invited pressure on themselves but the Royals’ defence stood strong and in all honesty, Blackburn rarely looked like scoring.
The one negative from that game was our own lack of attacking threat - and as I said earlier on - this is something we must improve on this afternoon. If we can get Joao and Puscas both on top of their game, I believe we can make life really difficult for Sheffield Wednesday this afternoon.
Joao will be especially keen to play well against his former side after losing his mojo in recent games. I have to commend him for his assist on Tuesday though, he stayed calm and resisted the temptation to have a go himself.
- Reading have conceded just one goal in their previous three league games. Goals at the other end are key to three points though.
- However, the Royals have won just one of their previous eight fixtures against today’s opponents. Let’s go and improve that record.
- As you can see in the form section, Sheffield Wednesday have won a grand total of zero points from a possible 15 in their last five league games.
- The Owls have also won just three Championship away games so far in 2020/21. Can they win today?
My Reading lineup: Rafael, Richards, Moore, Holmes, Yiadom, Semedo, Laurent, Ejaria, Olise, Joao, Puscas.
After the last game, I had given up on the diamond dream and said this absolute corker in my last match preview: “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”. Famous last words. In my defence, I wasn’t 100% sure Andy Rinomhota would be out - but there you go.
Rafa starts in goal, Richards and Yiadom keep their places at full back as we look to provide an attacking threat from out wide, with Liam Moore and Tom Holmes starting in central defence. Although many people will be calling for Tom McIntyre to start in central defence ahead of Holmes, Moore seems more comfortable on the left, McIntyre’s a lefty (not a Corbynite, a left-footed centre back) and Tom Holmes is a righty (not a Thatcherite, you know the drill). The latter was also solid when he came on, so why would he lose his place unless Morrison is fully fit for Saturday?
Alfa Semedo starts again in the absence of Rinomhota, Josh Laurent also makes the first eleven, with Michael Olise and Ovie Ejaria creating chances for Lucas Joao and George Puscas up top. If we can get both of them firing today, the Owls could have a real problem. This is easier said than done though, especially with Joao seemingly low in confidence. But with two up top, I’m hoping we can take the game to Wednesday and put in a performance worthy of a place in the playoffs. Although we have managed to get those two vital wins, we need to start playing like a promotion-chasing team again.
With the striking duo, however, I think we can get ourselves on the scoresheet a couple of times and if Yakou Meite returns, could he potentially be given a little cameo near the end of the game and help to seal the win? I certainly hope so - and I back us today. This is usually the kiss of death but surely I must be due a correct prediction? 2-0 is what I’ll go for.
Score Prediction: Reading 2-0 Sheffield Wednesday
Other Championship Fixtures
All Saturday 6th March (3pm KO) unless stated:
Watford vs Nottingham Forest (12:30pm KO)
Barnsley vs Birmingham City
Brentford vs Rotherham United
Bristol City vs Queens Park Rangers
Coventry City vs Derby County
Millwall vs Blackburn Rovers
Norwich City vs Luton Town
Preston North End vs AFC Bournemouth
Stoke City vs Wycombe Wanderers
Swansea City vs Middlesbrough