After a humiliation against National League North side Kidderminster Harriers at the weekend, Reading return to the Select Car Leasing Stadium this midweek as they face Premier League hopefuls Fulham, hoping to secure a much-needed three points.
A victory seems like a million miles away at the moment - but as many people have said - it would be so Reading Football Club to win all three points tonight. They come up against a side that haven’t been in the best form recently - but certainly have the quality to turn things around tonight and will be firm favourites going into this tie.
Is another upset on the cards though? We can’t tell you that - but we do have some of the facts and stats you need to know ahead of this evening’s clash.
What? Championship Matchday 24
Where? Select Car Leasing Stadium
When? Tuesday 11th January 2022
Opposition Manager? Marco Silva
The loss against Kidderminster seemed to be the straw that broke the camel’s back for a lot of Reading supporters. A cocktail of apathy, disappointment and despair finally boiled over in Worcestershire - and it’s been a long time coming after months and years of despondency. The fallout from the weekend’s cup upset wasn’t merely a reactionary one, that cliff edge was inching closer and closer and has been since the latter stages of the Stam era.
Although I am part of the Pauno out brigade now, I do feel sorry for him slightly, because he doesn’t have a Director of Football to call upon and everything seems like a mess right now. This is why Dai, in my opinion, has weeks to save his tenure at the club.
The situation is salvageable, but the January signings need to be right, a DoF needs to come in, those who don’t want the best for the club behind the scenes should go and there needs to be a proper structure at the club.
In terms of tonight’s opponents, they haven’t been in the best form recently but they will see this match as the best possible chance to get themselves back on track against a team that will be devoid of confidence following the weekend.
Not only does the atmosphere at the SCL make this a good opportunity for them, but the fact many of the players starting tonight won’t have played at the weekend means there may not be a ‘reaction’ to such a big FA Cup upset.
Their downfall against Reading in the reverse fixture was their failure to be clinical, not their attacking intent or anything else, so rectifying this will be key for them as they look to get their first league win on the board since November.
One to Watch: Aleksandar Mitrovic
Who else could I choose for this one? Liverpool-linked Fabio Carvalho, Neeskens Kebano and summer signing Harry Wilson all deserve a shout out for their contributions going forward this term - but Mitrovic is crucial to their cause and may play a key part in determining whether they clinch a top-two spot or not.
I think Marco Silva’s men and AFC Bournemouth will be the two teams to go up automatically despite Blackburn’s rise - but keeping the Serbian international fit will be key and you have to credit Silva for his role in Mitrovic’s rise. After such an underwhelming season during the 2020/21 campaign, he seems much happier now than he was under predecessor Scott Parker.
The Last Meeting
Fulham 1-2 Reading
- Reading have failed to score in just one of their last five competitive matches - a positive stat that’s much-needed!
- The Royals have won two, lost two and drawn one of their last five league meetings with the Cottagers. A reason for optimism?
- Fulham have scored just three times in their last five matches - going winless in these five games.
- However, they still have the best attacking record in the division with 51 goals in 23 matches. That should be a warning sign for today’s hosts.
My Reading lineup: Southwood, Hoilett, Dann, Holmes, Laurent, Ashcroft, Dele-Bashiru Rinomhota, Swift, Carroll, Clarke.
In goal, it probably has to be Luke Southwood after a pretty bad display from Rafael at the weekend, although the former hasn’t exactly been error-free either. The occasional howler can always happen and that’s just part and parcel of being a goalkeeper, but Rafael’s decline in particular is a source of concern.
Let’s hope Southwood can put in a perfect performance - something that will be needed if we want to have any chance of getting anything from this evening’s match.
A formation change is in the offing after a shoddy display last time out. The 4-2-3-1 system just looks so uninspiring at the moment but in fairness, the manager is probably contributing to that.
Instead, we’ll go with a 3-4-1-2 with Scot Dann, Tom Holmes and Josh Laurent in the centre. Laurent did a good job there at Craven Cottage and actually came over at full-time to apologise to the fans, a gesture that should have been made by most players.
Junior Hoilett starts in a deeper position on the left after putting in such a promising display against Derby, and if fit enough and cleared by the authorities to play, Tyrell Ashcroft gets another go after putting in a decent-ish display against the Rams. The rules surrounding head injuries may make his potential inclusion a doubt though.
There was a temptation to put Michael Stickland in at the heart of defence, with Laurent coming forward to take Tom Dele-Bashiru’s place, but the Watford loanee retains his place in the starting lineup.
He’s a lucky boy - because he didn’t step up to the plate on Saturday and this is part of the reason why Danny Drinkwater drops out of the starting 11. Drinkwater was probably the player I was most disappointed with at Kidderminster, alongside Rafael.
One man that needs to improve is John Swift, who was actually half-decent in the first half last Monday but went quiet in the second 45 like he has done in recent games. We need him back at his best tonight.
Up top, it may be foolish to have two big men, but I’ve gone with Andy Carroll and Jahmari Clarke up top. The latter seems to have a bit of speed about him, though I wouldn’t be too upset to see George Puscas start either. It’s clear he doesn’t thrive on his own, so this could be a good opportunity for him.
Score Prediction: Reading 0-2 Fulham
Other Championship Fixture(s)
The only other second-tier game taking place this midweek comes at Oakwell, with relegation battlers Barnsley taking on promotion hopefuls Stoke City in South Yorkshire.