Championship action for Reading returns this weekend as they take on current high-flyers Queens Park Rangers at the Kiyan Prince Foundation Stadium, with both sides looking to record three points on the board for their respective causes.
The two teams have endured mixed fortunes this term, with today’s hosts building on a remarkable second half of their 2020/21 campaign to put themselves in contention for a return to the Premier League at the end of this one. The Royals, on the other hand, were in decline during the second half of last term and that has continued this season, putting them in real danger of relegation to the third tier.
They won’t be expected to win this tie by many, potentially taking a bit of pressure off them. But will this work in their favour?
That remains to be seen, but for now, here’s everything you need to know ahead of this afternoon’s clash.
What? Championship Matchday 28
Who? Queens Park Rangers
Where? Kiyan Prince Foundation Stadium
When? Saturday 29th January 2022
Opposition Manager? Mark Warburton
I want some of what they have. Not only do they have two solid goalkeepers in Seny Dieng and David Marshall - but also an established back three in Yoann Barbet, Rob Dickie and Jimmy Dunne - all of whom have impressed under manager Warburton this term. Dunne has been particularly impressive in recent times and will be doing everything he can to continue maximising his performance levels with Dion Sanderson arriving on loan earlier this week.
The rest of their team is also impressive - and they certainly have a capable spine in Dieng, Dickie, captain and summer signing Stefan Johansen, Chris Willock and Lyndon Dykes. The latter has attracted interest from the top flight this month and it wouldn’t be a major surprise to see him make the step up in a year or two if he can improve his goalscoring record. Getting Dykes and Dickie through the door on four-year contracts in the summer of 2020 was a masterstroke - and they did extremely well to get Johansen through the door permanently during the previous window.
It took a while to process the notes from the STAR meeting - but it hasn’t exactly gone a long way in reassuring already-anxious fans.
The one good thing that came from it is the fact that the club seems to be open to taking ideas. Perhaps that should be a source of concern because they sound lost at the moment, but fan involvement is very much-needed to steer us on the correct course and we can only hope things are implemented to make people feel a bit better about where we’re heading.
A bit of direction from the club would be ideal though - because without that - some fans won’t be returning to the SCL. We can’t be led solely by the EFL despite our restrictions, a long-term plan can be devised in the coming weeks.
One to Watch: Chris Willock
With Ilias Chair still away with Morocco at the African Cup of Nations, it’s down to Willock to be the key link between the midfield and attack, something he seems to be doing expertly at the moment.
Not only is he a threat in the middle, but also out wide so that’s something to potentially look out for this afternoon, though you would expect the likes of Lee Wallace and Moses Odubajo to supply much of the width as wing-backs.
Albert Adomah is also available as an option off the bench, so expect the wide men and Willock to play a big part. Despite the latter’s capability to play as the sole advanced midfielder, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see Warburton revert to a 3-4-2-1 to accommodate both Chair and Willock when the former returns from Cameroon.
The Last Meeting
Reading 3-3 Queens Park Rangers
- QPR have gone unbeaten in their previous six competitive matches.
- They have conceded just four times in these six games. Good luck to Sanderson as he looks to force his way into the starting lineup!
- Reading have gone unbeaten in their last six meetings with today’s hosts. Can the R’s end that run?
- The Royals have conceded 15 goals in the last four league matches - a pretty shocking total!
My lineup: Southwood, Rahman, Laurent, Morrison, Holmes, Yiadom, Dele-Bashiru, Rinomhota, Swift, Joao, Puscas
In goal, Luke Southwood does start again, but one more error may see Karl Hein come in. I gave Rafael plenty of chances, but at this stage with survival on the line, I’d be inclined to make a change if there’s another mistake at the weekend.
On the left, Baba Rahman starts at wing-back with Andy Yiadom on the right side. Both can get forward well - and with the former’s defensive vulnerabilities - it would be better to have the Ghanaian duo as more advanced players.
In the middle, Josh Laurent, Michael Morrison and Tom Holmes line up alongside each other, though it would have been ideal to give Holmes a rest at this stage. It looks as though he has the weight of the world on his shoulders - and we can only hope he rises to the occasion this afternoon.
Again, Danny Drinkwater drops out for me considering recent performances, leaving Tom Dele-Bashiru and Andy Rinomhota as the duo in a deeper midfield position. Although Ovie Ejaria looks set to return, he probably isn’t fit enough to start, so it has to be John Swift in front of TDB and Rino as Alen Halilovic remains out of action.
This leaves Pauno able to play two up top, so Lucas Joao and George Puscas are the two obvious starters. The fact both scored last weekend will give them confidence, so let’s hope that pays dividends in seven hours. I’m not so sure it will though - and I’m going to go with a narrow 1-0 loss in this one.
Score Prediction: QPR 1-0 Reading
Other Championship Fixtures
All fixtures take place on Saturday 29th December (3pm KO) unless stated:
Barnsley vs AFC Bournemouth
Fulham vs Blackpool
Hull City vs Swansea City
Luton Town vs Blackburn Rovers
Middlesbrough vs Coventry City
Millwall vs West Bromwich Albion
Preston North End vs Bristol City
Peterborough United vs Sheffield United (5:30pm KO)
Derby County vs Birmingham City (Sunday 30th January; 1:30pm KO)
Cardiff City vs Nottingham Forest (Sunday 30th January; 4pm KO)