It’s matchday! Reading travel to Pride Park this midweek to face bottom side Derby County, looking to claim their fourth consecutive victory and 12 points out of a possible 12.
However, their opponents’ league standing doesn’t tell the whole story after a reasonably decent start to their Championship campaign. The Rams’ 12-point deduction due to their administration has put them in a sticky situation to say the least, making them desperate for every single they can possibly pick up between now and the end of the campaign.
This should serve as a stern warning to the Royals tonight - but can one side pick up all three points?
Here are the facts and stats you need to know ahead of tonight’s clash.
What? Championship Matchday 10
Who? Derby County
Where? Pride Park
When? Wednesday 29th September
Opposition Manager? Wayne Rooney
Even without their points deduction, Derby were tipped by many people to go down after only being able to make five signings during the summer. Considering they were operating under an EFL-imposed embargo, this doesn’t seem like a bad number.
However, they had six players on loan last term and lost another set of players on the expiration of their contracts at the end of last season, including former key striker Martyn Waghorn. So to get ten points from their opening nine games is a decent achievement, it’s just a major shame that they received such a hefty points deduction for something that was out of their control.
Despite this deduction, they still put in a brave performance against Sheffield United last weekend and while they may not stay in this division, especially if they get another nine points docked, they will be a tricky opponent for any Championship. Their draw at The Hawthorns against West Brom and narrow loss at Bramall Lane with ten men shows that.
An experienced defence could be key to a respectable season this term - and the likes of Curtis Davies and Phil Jagielka have both put in a decent shift for Wayne Rooney’s side so far this season.
Four games since the international break, three wins, one draw and ten points from a possible 12. After a nightmare start to the campaign, this is exactly what we needed and the Royals will be hoping to continue building momentum ahead of the next international break.
Away at Derby and Cardiff City, this isn’t impossible. But the former look reasonably decent at the back and how complex the game will be against the latter depends on how they manage to bounce back from their thumping at Blackburn Rovers at the weekend.
In our quest to keep more clean sheets, new signing Scott Dann could be a real asset after reportedly closing in on a potential debut - and hopefully Andy Rinomhota will also return for tonight.
We need to be getting to a stage where more players are returning than getting injured, something that isn’t happening with Dejan Tetek and Junior Hoilett both being forced off against Middlesbrough.
Player To Watch: Phil Jagielka
It might be strange to pick a central defender as one to watch considering they have the likes of Ravel Morrison and Tom Lawrence going forward, with Lee Buchanan also one to look out for as a promising left-back - but he could be a major source of frustration for the man who starts up top for the Royals tonight.
With his experience and Premier League pedigree, it would be hard to see the 39-year-old not give either George Puscas or Junior Hoilett a tough time.
Don’t be deceived by his age, he can still do a job and could prove to be a vital asset for the Rams tonight in their desperation to get three points on the board. Even without a further deduction, they already have plenty of ground to make up and anything less than a win tonight would be a real hammer blow.
Of course the likes of former Royal Sam Baldock will need to contribute heavily, but just one goal will do the job if the Rams can keep a clean sheet and who knows, Jagielka could also be a threat from set-pieces like Curtis Davies has been this season.
Both centre-backs will be key in keeping Reading at bay - but it will be especially interesting to see the 39-year-old in action.
The Last Meeting
Reading 3-1 Derby County
- Reading have won just two of their previous 11 league games away from home. A good chance to improve this record tonight?
- The Royals have won three of their last four meetings against the Rams.
- Derby are unbeaten in all four of their league games so far this season.
- They have conceded just three goals during those matches, so it may take someone special like John Swift to unlock their defence. However, they’ve only scored four times, so could one goal be enough for the Berkshire outfit to take the victory?
My Reading lineup: Southwood, Rahman, Laurent, Yiadom, Tetek, Drinkwater, Dele-Bashiru, Ejaria, Swift, Halilovic, Puscas
Ahead of this clash, I have made just the one change to Reading’s lineup with the international break coming up shortly.
Again, Luke Southwood gets the nod over Rafael and with the likes of Ravel Morrison and Tom Lawrence as attacking threats for the opposition, he could prove to be crucial tonight in securing one or three points.
Baba Rahman also starts as usual, with Josh Laurent and Andy Yiadom continuing as a makeshift centre-back partnership after helping the Royals to record their first clean sheet of the campaign at the weekend. It would be good to see Scott Dann potentially come on for Dejan Tetek at some point so Yiadom can return to his right-back position, but you probably wouldn’t start the former Palace man for his debut just yet. Dejan Tetek also keeps his place.
The same applies to Danny Drinkwater and Tom Dele-Bashiru - and I have to admit I’m very impressed with the former. There were concerns over his mindset after seeing his career stall, but he’s showed why he’s performed at the highest level over the past couple of games and will be hoping to continue in the same vein for the remainder of this term. This can only help to put him in the shop window.
John Swift also keeps his place despite the risk of injury, solely because the international break is coming up. Ovie Ejaria and Alen Halilovic are another two who keep their places on either wing, although it would be good to see Junior Hoilett come on at some point and mix things up.
Speaking of mixing things up, George Puscas returns to the lineup to give Hoilett a mini-break - and you just feel Reading need an orthodox striker up there against the experienced duo of Curtis Davies and Phil Jagielka.
But I can’t see either side scoring (famous last words), so I’m going with a 0-0 draw. Let’s hope we also see the surprise inclusion of Andy Rinomhota in the matchday 18 tonight.
Score Prediction: Derby County 0-0 Reading
Other Championship Fixtures
All Wednesday 29th September (7:45pm KO):
Barnsley vs Nottingham Forest
Fulham vs Swansea City
Luton Town vs Coventry City
Millwall vs Bristol City
Peterborough United vs AFC Bournemouth