Not all that long ago, this fixture would have been a much more important one for the overall play-off picture. Cardiff City’s run of seven wins and four draws in 11 had them in sixth at the beginning of last month, but they’ve since gone off the boil. One win and two draws in their last six means the Bluebirds sit eighth - seven points behind Reading and 12 off the play-offs.
They’ll still be tough opposition. Mick McCarthy, appointed in January, has done a fine job in South Wales after things went wrong for predecessor Neil Harris. Talking about all of that and plenty more this week is Cardiff fan Daniel Lewis.
How’s the season gone for you so far overall?
In a word: underwhelming. There was a brief spell when we flirted with promotion thanks to an upturn in results when McCarthy first took charge, but we have gone off the boil again over the past couple of weeks and an eighth-placed finish looks to be the best outcome.
What went wrong for Neil Harris?
The quick turnaround between last season and this one didn’t help. While the majority of teams were resting up for 2020/21, we made it to the playoff semi-finals and had 10 days’ fewer rest, which was always going to catch up with us. That inevitably led to injuries creeping in and Harris was having to chop and change too often.
How’s his successor, Mick McCarthy, done so far in the dugout?
Very well on the whole. McCarthy took over when we were 15th in the table and 13 points off the playoffs. We then went 11 without defeat, winning seven of those, to move into the top six at one point. Sustaining that run was never realistically going to be possible, and so it’s told with recent results and performances. He deserved the new deal he was given, though, and fingers crossed with a full season we can challenge again for the playoffs.
How does he set his side up tactically?
McCarthy’s favoured a 3-5-2 formation, but he’s not been helped by injuries that have forced us to field some younger players and use others out of position. Kieffer Moore is the focal point up top and we’re blessed with attacking options either side, but a long season is catching up with the squad and we could perhaps do with tweaking the system with an eye on next season.
What are the main strengths of this Cardiff team?
Tough to beat and hard to break down for a while... then came the 5-0 loss at Sheffield Wednesday. We conceded more goals in that game than in the previous 10. It’s no coincidence that our defence has become leaky at the same time that Sean Morrison has dropped out of the side with an injury. We scored twice against Blackburn last weekend but the rate of goals has also dropped overall - just four in our last eight games.
Any weaknesses for Reading to exploit?
The defence. We’ve played three games since Morrison picked up an injury in the win over Swansea and have conceded eight times. He won’t be back this weekend, and it looks like academy players Tom Sang and Ciaron Brown will start again in defence, so there are definitely goals to be scored if you attack.
How do you see the game going, and what will the score be?
Had this been played before the international break, I’d have backed us to win this game. But given our loss of form since then and poor record against you - no wins in 10 in all competitions - I’m going to have to back a home win. 2-1.