After suffering a major blow at the weekend with a terrible mixture of results, Reading look to cling on to their playoff hopes by taking all three points against Cardiff City this evening.
Despite his brilliant start in the Welsh capital, Mick McCarthy has won just one of his last seven league games with his Cardiff side since signing an extended deal. In Berkshire, we like to call it ‘The Mark Bowen Syndrome’. But we also have problems of our own despite still being in contention for a place in the top six, with AFC Bournemouth and Barnsley in a superior position to the Royals going into this tie. So, this is a clash between two sides in poor form – but who will come out on top tonight.
Here’s everything you need to know ahead of this Friday evening clash under the floodlights.
What? Championship Matchday 42
Who? Cardiff City
Where? Madejski Stadium
When? Friday 16th April 2021
Opposition Manager? Mick McCarthy
Last Friday was a bit of a disappointment. Although we all knew it would be a difficult task, to concede two goals early on was massively frustrating and it pretty much killed the game. After that, the home side didn’t need to get out of first gear and if they had needed to, I can almost guarantee they would have gone on to score more than two. One thing Reading can take heart from is some of their play just before the interval. George Puscas and Yakou Meite could and perhaps should have scored, with Michael Olise playing particularly well in this game. Olise even received plaudits from Watford fans for his performance – and we can only hope he can put in a good shift again this evening.
Long-term absentees John Swift and Felipe Araruna could both appear in the matchday squad this evening after spending a considerable time out of action. If I’m right in saying, Araruna has been out since the reverse fixture back in September – and will want to remain injury free for the foreseeable future after spending the majority of his time in Berkshire on the sidelines. Tom McIntyre and Michael Morrison remain out injured though, which is a bit of a blow for Veljko Paunovic. Let’s hope we haven’t seen the last of them in a Reading shirt.
Cardiff City: DWLLD
Up until February, Cardiff were having a pretty disappointing season but their fortunes changed when Mick McCarthy was appointed to replace Neil Harris. They even climbed into the playoff zone at one point and gave Reading a fright, although the Royals should have been more afraid of AFC Bournemouth and Barnsley in hindsight. Their recent form has let them down though and suffered a 5-0 hammering at Sheffield Wednesday in the game before last, effectively ending their hopes of securing a place in the top six and leaving them with nothing to play for. But will this be advantageous for Reading this evening?
Sean Morrison, who appeared for the Royals in the Premier League and Championship, could return in time for this tie after missing the last league game against Blackburn Rovers. This will be a huge boost for the Welsh side who will be delighted to welcome their skipper back into the matchday squad. Joe Bennett, Lee Tomlin, Isaac Vassell, Joel Bagan and Sol Bamba remain on the sidelines though. Good luck to Bamba who is battling bravely against non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. I’m sure we’ll see him back in action sooner rather than later!
The Last Meeting
Cardiff City 1-2 Reading
This was a game dominated by annoying shadows and injuries, but Reading won all three points nonetheless.
The first half didn’t really bring anything of great note, although the Royals did manage to get in front two minutes after the interval when Michael Morrison got on the end of Michael Olise’s free kicks. Created by Michael, scored by Michael. And the away side doubled their lead in the 66th minute when Ovie Ejaria slipped a ball through to Josh Laurent, who poked it to Lucas Joao to do the rest. This is the Joao we want to be seeing at this stage of the season: strength, ruthlessness and confidence in front of goal.
Felipe Araruna’s injury in that game has ruled him out of this season up until now – and things got even worse when Cardiff City pulled one back – but the Royals managed to hold on to the win.
Can we go back to that time please? It was certainly our most successful period in 2020/21 so far.
The Last League Match
Watford 2-0 Reading
Ismaila Sarr’s three-minute brace proved to be decisive as the Royals fell to a defeat at a time in the season when we needed three points.
They were two avoidable goals, perhaps Josh Laurent could have done more for the first goal – and Lewis Gibson was quite obviously at fault for the second. Rafael could do nothing about either though, with two brilliant strikes from a man who deserves to be in the Premier League, with or without Watford. He also had a third goal disallowed for offside.
Reading did muster a response late on in the first half though, with Yakou Meite, Josh Laurent, Andy Yiadom and George Puscas all having chances to reduce the deficit. The latter’s miss was especially bad – and he will want to make amends this evening.
The game did fall a bit flat in the second half, with the home side not having to get out of first gear, consigning the Berkshire side to a defeat last Friday.
- Mick McCarthy’s side has taken just six points from a possible 21 since the gaffer signed a new deal.
- Before this torrid run, the Bluebirds had gone ten games unbeaten. This was a run that put the side in touching distance of the top six after spending much of the season in midtable.
- Reading have taken just six points from a possible 18 in their last six league matches. So frustrating.
- The Royals have not lost to Cardiff City at the Madejski Stadium since November 2011. We all know what’s coming next…
My Reading lineup: Rafael, Richards, Moore, Holmes, Yiadom, Rinomhota, Laurent, Ejaria, Olise, Meite, Joao
Although Veljko Paunovic kept George Puscas in the side and promoted Lewis Gibson, I have gone with the same team I wanted to start last Friday at Vicarage Road.
As I said in the Watford section, Rafael had no chance with either goal and starts again tonight, hoping to keep a clean sheet. We may need him at crucial times in this tie – and I hope he can rise to the occasion and help his side to secure all three points. We really need them.
Omar Richards has to come back in at left back, it’s a no brainer really if he’s 100% fit. Liam Moore also starts alongside Tom Holmes, who has been very impressive and continued his hot run of form in the last league game. Hopefully, their confidence hasn’t been wrecked by that quickfire double in Hertfordshire. And I hope the loss did not overshadow the shift Holmes put in – he was a contender for man of the match for me, alongside Michael Olise. Andy Yiadom also retains his place in the starting lineup after putting in some decent displays recently. Like Richards, if he is fit, he has to start.
In midfield, Andy Rinomhota and Josh Laurent start again, although there was an interesting question on last week’s podcast. If John Swift comes back from injury and can stay fit, would you drop either Rinomhota or Laurent to start Swift in a deeper position? For me, it’s a no unless one of the duo gets injured – but it’s definitely food for thought with Alfa Semedo also waiting patiently on the bench.
In front of them, Ovie Ejaria, Michael Olise and Yakou Meite all play again. Meite missed a great chance against Watford after getting past the defender and doing the hard part – but let’s hope he can recapture his goalscoring ability against Cardiff. With both Puscas and Lucas Joao off-colour in the last game, he could be vital in such a crucial tie.
Up front, Joao regains his place. I miss his hold up play, I can’t lie. There is no doubting he had an awful cameo in the last match – but Puscas wasn’t great either and struggled against a strong Watford defence. It might be time to switch things up, so Joao comes in for me.
Score prediction time. I think this will be quite an open game, with Reading now desperate for every point they can get at this stage of the campaign. However, their attacking emphasis may leave gaps at the back – and I’ll go with a 2-2 draw in this one. Let’s hope we can get the win though. Come on URZ!
Score Prediction: Reading 2-2 Cardiff City
Other Championship Fixtures
All Saturday 17th April (3pm KO) unless stated:
Blackburn Rovers vs Derby County
Brentford vs Millwall
Luton Town vs Watford
Middlesbrough vs Queens Park Rangers
Nottingham Forest vs Huddersfield Town
Sheffield Wednesday vs Bristol City
Stoke City vs Preston North End
Swansea City vs Wycombe Wanderers
Norwich City vs AFC Bournemouth (8pm KO)
Rotherham United vs Birmingham City (Sunday 18th April 12pm KO)
Coventry City vs Barnsley (Sunday 18th April 3pm KO)