Reading return to Championship action this afternoon as they face Carlos Corberan’s Huddersfield Town, with the Royals looking to get back to winning ways after suffering a last-minute loss last weekend.
The Berkshire outfit have enjoyed a good recent record at the John Smith’s Stadium - but the Terriers have started the season reasonably well considering many peoples’ league table predictions before the beginning of the 2021/22 campaign. They will be tipped to maintain that record against a Reading side that have struggled so far - but with new additions at their disposal - they will be hoping to get back on track.
Who will come out victorious though? Will it be a draw? Who will step up to the plate and make the difference at 3pm? Let’s wait and see.
Here’s everything you need to know ahead of this afternoon’s kick-off in West Yorkshire.
What? Championship Matchday 5
Who? Huddersfield Town
Where? The John Smith’s Stadium
When? Saturday 28th August
Opposition Manager? Carlos Corberan
As stated in the intro, Huddersfield have done a lot better than many had expected after finishing in 20th last season. In fairness to them, the loan signing of Chelsea teenager Levi Colwill is probably going to be a game-changer for them and after a summer of strong recruitment overall, this may push them on to greater things under a man who worked with Marcelo Bielsa at Leeds United not so long ago. Their win away at Sheffield United last weekend was particularly impressive - and they will be keen to build on this success.
Another player that could be crucial during the 2021/22 campaign, aside from Colwill, is 22-year-old Lewis O’Brien. After a successful spell at Bradford City a few seasons ago, he has become a key part of Huddersfield’s side and will be even more important now with Juninho Bacuna’s recent departure to Rangers. However, O’Brien has reportedly been the subject of strong interest from Leeds United, although the Whites are yet to match the Terriers’ valuation of their current vice-captain.
At this stage, it looks like he will remain at the John Smith’s Stadium, with the club holding the option of extending his deal by 12 months.
The Royals can only hope their new signings can give them a boost ahead of this tie. With the announcements of Alen Halilovic and Baba Rahman yesterday, Reading have addressed two positions that needed to be strengthened before the end of this month. Now their attention must turn to a striker.
You could even argue more signings need to be made. Muhamed Besic is still an option but would it block the pathway of Dejan Tetek? What about a short-term replacement for Tom McIntyre if we remain with three at the back? Perhaps the right-back area is another area we need to address with Felipe Araruna out injured? Let’s make it this weekend’s question. If you had to strengthen one more area, striker aside, what would it be? It will certainly be interesting to see the mix of responses.
One To Watch: Lewis O’Brien
Because the midfielder has been linked with Leeds United and Crystal Palace in the latter stages of the window, I can’t pick out anyone other than the 22-year-old.
He may not score this afternoon - but he could be vital for the Terriers in the middle of the park after establishing himself as a key member of the first team. After graduating from Huddersfield’s academy, O’Brien has established himself as a fan favourite and the club will be desperate to retain him beyond the end of the window.
He was appointed as one of several vice-captains in West Yorkshire during the summer, reinforcing the respect he commands in the dressing room and just how much of a miss he would be if he leaves between now and the end of the window.
A move to Leeds is a real possibility with Marcelo Bielsa personally going to watch him in action not so long ago, but it’s the Championship side that currently hold the upper hand at the negotiating table with that option to trigger an extension on his current deal. Without that, they would be in a tricky situation with the midfielder having less than 12 months left on his contract.
The Last Meeting
Reading 2-2 Huddersfield Town
- Huddersfield Town were unbeaten in 15 of their 23 league games at home last season. Something to build on?
- In all fairness, you could flip it around and say they won just eight of these matches. Can they start turning draws into wins?
- Reading have won their last two away fixtures at the John Smith’s Stadium. Can they make it three or will the Terriers stop them?
- The Royals have failed to keep a clean sheet in any of their five competitive games so far this season. An opportunity for Carlos Corberan’s side?
My Reading lineup: Rafael, Bristow, Moore, Morrison, Yiadom, Rinomhota, Laurent, Hoilett, Swift, Azeez, Puscas
Writing this just after the Baba Rahman announcement, it’s currently unclear whether Alen Halilovic or the Chelsea loanee will be available to play, but I wouldn’t start either regardless. A place on the bench will be sufficient - and hopefully Ovie Ejaria can join them after self-isolating with Covid-19.
In goal, Rafael starts again. Many people would argue he should have saved Coventry’s equaliser at the weekend. The Brazilian did well to get there in the first place, but after getting into that position, surely he must have stronger wrists to palm that one away. I’m no goalkeeping coach, so maybe I should just keep quiet on this one. I desperately want him to do well though - because he was exceptional during his first season at the Select Car Leasing Stadium and helped to save our season after Joao Virginia’s early displays.
At left-back, Reading will be boosted by the addition of Baba Rahman but Ethan Bristow has to take this spot, just to ensure we aren’t rushing the Ghanaian into action too quickly. Risking an injury wouldn’t be wise at this stage, so it has to be Bristow in there lining up alongside Liam Moore and Michael Morrison who will remain at the heart of defence. Andy Yiadom starts on the right again as per usual.
Andy Rinomhota and Josh Laurent also take their places in central midfield again, with Tom Dele-Bashiru potentially coming on in the second half and making a real impact. John Swift starts as the more advanced midfielder, with Junior Hoilett getting his first start and Femi Azeez taking his place out on the right. With Halilovic potentially available for this one, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see him get ten or 15 minutes off the bench.
And up top, George Puscas gets another chance to shine. This was a difficult lineup to put together with the 25-year-old out of form and me opting to drop him last week - but I’m rooting for him to do well in the absence of Lucas Joao and a good performance this afternoon could be season-defining.
Moving on to the score prediction, this one is going to be close I think. You would fancy us to get a goal or two again this weekend, but I just can’t see us getting all three points. Huddersfield have started well too despite their 5-1 defeat against Fulham, so I’m going to go with a 1-1 draw in this one. It feels like a must-not-lose for the Royals even at this early stage of the campaign.
Score Prediction: Huddersfield Town 1-1 Reading
Other Championship Fixtures
All Saturday 28th August (3pm KO) unless stated:
Cardiff City vs Bristol City (12:30pm KO)
Derby County vs Nottingham Forest (12:30pm KO)
Barnsley vs Birmingham City
Fulham vs Stoke City
Hull City vs AFC Bournemouth
Luton Town vs Sheffield United
Middlesbrough vs Blackburn Rovers
Millwall vs Blackpool
Preston North End vs Swansea City
Queens Park Rangers vs Coventry City
Peterborough United vs West Bromwich Albion (8pm KO)