Reading return to the Select Car Leasing Stadium for the second time this week as they take on play-off hopefuls Huddersfield Town this afternoon, looking to end what has been a torrid winless run.
Today’s home side couldn’t buy a point at the moment - and with the mood in the fanbase only worsening with every passing game - the Royals will need to step up to the plate if they want to pay back the fans and that includes manager Veljko Paunovic. However, they face a Huddersfield side that look like a completely different team from last season following a productive summer and will be favourites to take all three points today considering their current form.
But will the visitors capitalise on their momentum? That remains to be seen.
For now, here’s everything you need to know ahead of this afternoon’s clash in Berkshire.
What? Championship Matchday 27
Who? Huddersfield Town
Where? Select Car Leasing Stadium
When? Saturday 22nd January 2022
Opposition Manager? Carlos Corberan
The Royals were recently linked with a move for Arsenal’s Karl Hein, a 19-year-old shot-stopper who would presumably come in to challenge Luke Southwood. Nothing seems to be close at this stage, but this potential move does seem like a strange one considering the likes of Coniah Boyce-Clarke and Jokull Andresson are already available.
Ideally, the club would bring in an experienced replacement for Rafael if they did want to go ahead and recruit another shot-stopper, something Pauno seems keen on doing. In this case, a move for Sheffield United-linked Frank Fielding (or someone similar to Fielding) to provide support to Southwood seems like a logical step, potentially allowing Andresson to go out on another loan with the view of becoming second choice at the SCL from next term.
What a difference a summer can make! Like Stoke City, one transfer window seems to have completely changed Huddersfield’s fortunes. Not only has their recruitment been spot on - but their existing players from last season have also improved and they are now looking towards a much brighter future with a potential top-six spot up for grabs.
Going back to their signings though, they have been exceptional, especially their recruits in defence. Chelsea loanee Levi Colwill has been a revelation and is rightly stealing the headlines - but free signings Tom Lees and Matty Pearson should also be commended for their role in the West Yorkshire outfit’s rise.
Sorba Thomas also deserves a mention for his rise from non-league to the Wales national team (though he wasn’t signed in the summer) - but one particular player stands out for me...
One to Watch: Lewis O’Brien
Midfielder O’Brien was heavily linked with a move to the Premier League during the summer, with Leeds United reported to have launched multiple bids for his services. This move seemed like the natural next step after spending the entirety of his footballing career in Yorkshire, coming through the youth system at the John Smith’s Stadium and spending time on loan at Bradford City during the 2018/19 campaign.
However, a transfer failed to materialise and he signed a new contract to extend his stay at the second-tier side until 2025 back in September. Fresh Premier League interest has emerged this month - but he looks set to remain at his current side for the foreseeable future as one of their most important assets.
The 23-year-old is an influential figure for the Terriers and isn’t afraid to get forward either, as his goal at Barnsley showed earlier in the season, so he’s one player the hosts need to keep an eye on.
The Last Meeting
Huddersfield Town 4-0 Reading
- Reading have scored just twice in their last four competitive games. Conceding is an issue but so is scoring!
- The Royals went unbeaten in their last meetings with Huddersfield prior to their 4-0 defeat earlier in the season. Am I clutching at straws here?
- Huddersfield have gone unbeaten in their previous eight competitive games.
- They have fired a blank in just one of these matches - so expect them to get on the scoresheet again today.
My lineup: Southwood, Rahman, Laurent, Morrison, Holmes, Yiadom, Dele-Bashiru, Rinomhota, Swift, Joao, Clarke
Southwood starts between the sticks as usual, although it remains to be seen who will come in to challenge him for his place with a goalkeeper seemingly at the top of the wishlist. Any goalkeeper that does come in during the next week or so isn’t likely to displace the current first-choice shot-stopper at this stage. That’s unless he makes a couple of catastrophic mistakes in the coming weeks.
If (and it’s a big if) they’re both fit and ready to come in, Baba Rahman and Andy Yiadom both start. It’s a bit of a concern considering they have only flown back from Cameroon a couple of days ago - but they could potentially be game-changers in this situation. I do like a good whinge about injuries though, so whether them starting is a good idea or not remains to be seen.
In the centre, Josh Laurent, Michael Morrison and Tom Holmes form the trio in the backline, providing the Royals with a more inspiring shape than the current setup that has quite clearly gone stale. Laurent has made a couple of costly mistakes in recent games so there are worries about him - but limited options at centre-back means either he or Yiadom have to drop in there.
Moving to the midfield, Danny Drinkwater should probably start on the bench as I’ve been saying in recent games. It’s frustrating, because he can be top-quality on his day - but perhaps needs a bit of time out. Tom Dele-Bashiru comes into the middle to take his place along with Andy Rinomhota who start at the midfield pairing, leaving John Swift as the more advanced man in midfield. The latter could be crucial in winning us three points.
Up top, Lucas Joao finally comes in for his first start in months following two appearances from the bench and he lines up with Jahmari Clarke up top, with nothing going right for George Puscas in recent games. Playing the latter on his own clearly doesn’t work, so I wouldn’t be upset to see him start on the condition that he’s with another forward.
I can’t see us winning though and at this stage, I can’t see Pauno playing two up front. A change in system would be nice - but it needs to be implemented from the start. Starting on the front foot would also get fans onside.
Score Prediction: Reading 0-1 Huddersfield Town
Other Championship Fixtures
Bristol City vs Cardiff City (12:30pm KO)
Nottingham Forest vs Derby County (12:30pm KO)
Birmingham City vs Barnsley
Blackpool vs Millwall
AFC Bournemouth vs Hull City
Coventry City vs Queens Park Rangers
Sheffield United vs Luton Town
Stoke City vs Fulham
Swansea City vs Preston North End
West Bromwich Albion vs Peterborough United
Blackburn Rovers vs Middlesbrough (Monday 24th January; 7:45pm KO)