After a disappointing draw against Luton Town in midweek, this match looks set to be a dead rubber for Reading as promotion contenders Swansea City travel to Berkshire this Sunday noon.
The away side have also been in poor form themselves recently under Steve Cooper - but the Royals have come to their rescue through their own inconsistency. Despite this, Veljko Paunovic will desperately want a decent end to the season to fend off doubters and set the right tone going into next season. Will they be able to get the three points today against one of the best sides in the league? We’ll soon wait and see on that one.
Here are the facts and stats you need to know ahead of this Mad Stad clash in front of the Sky cameras.
What? Championship Matchday 44
Who? Swansea City
Where? Madejski Stadium
When? Sunday 25th April 2021
Opposition Manager? Steve Cooper
Wednesday night was probably one of the first nights of the season where I was genuinely angry. Whilst we kept a clean sheet, that performance was shocking. Where was the creativity? Why didn’t Veljko Paunovic change things earlier? Why were the front four so poor and devoid of ideas? What did Pauno say to them at half time? It was perplexing. Us Reading fans have sat through some dross in previous years - but the Luton game came pretty close to being the worst game I have seen us going forward. Even against eight-man Yeovil bloody Town we should some urgency despite not being able to grab the winner. We said even before Wednesday’s game but the Royals need to generate a response on Sunday, because that was borderline disgraceful at Kenilworth Road.
Lucas Joao remains out injured, along with Michael Morrison and Tom McIntyre. Felipe Araruna is also nowhere to be seen despite all the promising news about him making a return. What’s happened to him? He’s spent the vast majority of his time with us injured. Let’s hope he can make a return to the bench before the end of the season. Liam Moore is another injury concern for today’s home side after going off injured in midweek and Lewis Gibson could be the man to come in for him, although I’d give Jeriel Dorsett a chance as well (at least on the bench) seeing as our season has all but ended. Players like Dejan Tetek and Nahum Melvin-Lambert may also get a go at some point.
Swansea City: LWWDL
After having such a good season, Swansea are seemingly limping over the finish line. Despite losing four consecutive games between mid-March to early April and in doing so, effectively removing themselves from the automatic promotion race, one of their most disappointing results recently came last weekend when they drew 2-2 with relegation-threatened Wycombe Wanderers. They were even 2-0 down at one point (with Garath McCleary getting on the scoresheet) and will need to start picking up some momentum again with just three games to go until the playoffs. A loss on Tuesday to Queens Park Rangers hasn’t helped their cause one bit.
As I write this on Thursday night, just three points separate AFC Bournemouth in third and Barnsley in sixth. Although Swansea currently sit in fourth place and will host the second leg in the playoff semi-final as things stand, Brentford have a game in hand over the Welsh side and currently sit just one point behind them. This gives the Swans even more of an incentive to pick up their form and secure that vital home tie in the second game. The playoffs are one big lottery though - and they have the ability to beat Brentford, Bournemouth and Barnsley on their day. A win would be useful for them today.
The Last Meeting
Swansea City 0-0 Reading
At that point of the season back at the end of December, this was a very good result for the Royals who stood up well to the challenge of the Swans. Even though two very good Rafael stops from Andre Ayew’s attempts kept the score level, Reading also had two good chances, with Tom McIntyre going close on a couple of occasions. Chelsea loanee Marc Guehi should have also done a lot better with the chance he had in the first half - but all five Reading players at the back played their part as they kept an impressive clean sheet away from home.
Rafael was undoubtedly the man of the match - but the likes of Michael Morrison and Tom Holmes also put a shift in to keep Ayew and Jamal Lowe at bay. If I’m right in saying, this was the first we saw of Holmes at centre back in quite a while and it was clear, even from that game, that it’s his best position and the academy graduate has reinforced that recently with the absence of Morrison.
After the game, I thought that point could have been vital to our playoff/promotion chances, but it looks like it won’t be. And that’s a shame because we showed real bravery during that game and a resilience we have failed to show in the latter stages of this campaign. Is it fatigue? I’m not so sure - but it’s very disappointing either way.
The Last League Match
Luton Town 0-0 Reading
Do we really have to go through this game again? Well, it was a poor one, that’s for sure. I actually thought the back five and the defensive midfield duo played reasonably well, if not spectacular. Josh Laurent was good again, so was Tom Holmes at the back. Andy Yiadom also showed plenty of energy going forward but every single one of the front four were desperately poor tonight.
When we have two of Lucas Joao, George Puscas and Yakou Meite on the pitch, you’re expecting at least one to step up to the plate each game even if the other one doesn’t. Wednesday was different, with Puscas not being able to trap a bag of cement and Meite non-existent. Michael Olise and Ovie Ejaria weren’t on it at all and they need to take their fair share of the responsibility as our main creative players.
Although the likes of Sone Aluko, Sam Baldock and Alfa Semedo all came on and did their bit to inject a bit of life into the game, we didn’t test Luton’s keeper and this game has pretty much ended our hopes of getting a place in the playoffs. We should have no complaints, because all six teams above us have been much better than we have recently.
- Reading have won just one league match in their previous eight now - the main reason why we aren’t in the playoffs. Our recent form has been so disappointing.
- The Royals have also failed to win any of their last seven home games against today’s opponents. Will this torrid run end in a few hours?
- Swansea have scored eight goals in their last two matches at the Madejski Stadium.
- However, the Swans have won just two of their last eight Championship matches. This form needs to improve as they prepare for the playoffs again.
My Reading lineup: Rafael, Richards, Gibson, Holmes, Yiadom, Rinomhota, Laurent, Aluko, Meite, Baldock, Puscas
After a really poor performance against Luton, I have gone with a formation change and three changes ahead of this afternoon’s tie.
Rafael starts in goal again after a half-decent display on Wednesday. There was one bad error on his part but thankfully, it wasn’t costly. Luke Southwood could potentially get a go in goal at some point, as I said in my previous match preview if Barnsley secure their place in the playoffs this weekend. Would I be against Southwood being given a chance? Not at all. I would give Rafael one more season to prove himself though after having such a decent first season at the club.
Omar Richards also starts at left back as our only senior option there. Lewis Gibson also starts to give Liam Moore the time he needs to recover, coming in alongside Tom Holmes in central defence who has been very good recently. Andy Yiadom also starts and has no real competition in his position with Tomas Esteves out of favour and Felipe Araruna still injured.
What has happened to Esteves? Regardless, I’m reasonably satisfied with that back four, although we could see Jeriel Dorsett come in at some point as I touched on earlier. If Moore is out for the rest of the campaign and the playoff race ends before the final day of the season, the England youth international may just get his chance.
In midfield, Andy Rinomhota and Josh Laurent keep their places as two of the better performers in Bedfordshire, with Sone Aluko (I know) and Yakou Meite on the wings. We need more width and a different plan. Whilst both have played more centrally before, they can hug the touchlines and help to stretch Swansea’s defence. I know Aluko is set to leave in the summer - but we need something fresh - even if it’s just for a game or two. It’s probably an unpopular lineup but something needs to change.
Up front, Sam Baldock (I know!) and George Puscas start as a pairing. Baldock’s energy has brightened up Reading’s performances late on in games recently, even if it’s just slightly. Puscas was also very poor on his own in midweek and could do with Baldock to give him support. Liam Moore, Ovie Ejaria and Michael Olise are the players to come out for Gibson, Aluko and Baldock.
Time for the score prediction. Although Reading have received hammerings by Swansea in their last couple of games at the Mad Stad, I think they will be able to keep the score down today. But I just don’t see the Royals getting anything from this one based on recent form. I’ll go with a 2-0 loss in this one. Hopefully, the players can prove everyone wrong - and I want to be eating my hat after the game...
Score Prediction: Reading 0-2 Swansea City
Other Championship Fixtures
Bristol City vs Luton Town (1pm KO)
Tuesday 27th April:
Brentford vs Rotherham United (7pm KO)