After spending weeks away from Championship football, Reading finally return to action for the first time in 2022 as they take on relegation battlers Derby County at the SCL.
Despite their current league position, the Rams have been impressive at times this season, battling not just against their administration and two separate points deductions, but also their strict transfer embargo in the summer as matters off the pitch have hampered the club on it.
They may have been impressive, but the Royals will be expected to take all three points from this game with their home advantage and some of their key players potentially back after a long break. Whether they can win a crucial three points this afternoon remains to be seen - but it certainly won’t be an easy task.
Ahead of this match, we have all the facts and stats you need to know!
What? Championship Matchday 23
Who? Derby County
Where? Select Car Leasing Stadium
When? Monday 3rd January 2022
Opposition Manager? Wayne Rooney
Happy January transfer window all! For us, it may not be the most cheerful, although it would be hard to see many players head out of the exit door considering the lack of depth we currently have.
In the end, a lot of the big earners who are out of contract in the summer will leave at the end of the season, probably the most sensible option whilst we continue to fight relegation. In terms of incomings, a full-back or two would be ideal, as well as a potential replacement for Andy Carroll if he does leave in mid-January.
Considering there isn’t likely to be a high number of departures though, it would be hard to see many arrivals, though a couple of loan deals until the end of the season could be a possibility considering we’ve only used up two of our loanee spots. One eye will also be on the summer with a rebuild potentially on the horizon.
Derby are starting to have me a little worried. Being deducted 21 points in total, it looked as though they were doomed, especially after going on a seven-game winless run between October and the start of November. However, they have performed admirably and the fact there’s little pressure on their shoulders to perform has shown, though that shouldn’t take away from the bravery the Rams have shown against adversity.
Not being able to strengthen heavily during the summer window due to their embargo, some tipped them to be relegated regardless of their deductions. But the likes of Phil Jagielka, Curtis Davies and Richard Stearman have all been solid in defence. Praise should also be given to some of their youngsters for stepping up to the plate and fitting in seamlessly in the Championship. Luke Plange may have got himself in and amongst the goals - but midfielder Liam Thompson is also proving to be a real asset.
If they can somehow retain their second-tier status, the future looks bright for them.
One to Watch: Liam Thompson
There are a number of players I could have picked for this one. Lee Buchanan because he was the subject of major interest in the summer, Davies and Jagielka for their solidity in defence, Max Bird and Jason Knight as two solid young players, Tom Lawrence for his leadership at this difficult time and Colin Kazim-Richards for his goal threat.
But I’ve gone with midfielder Thompson for his recent performances, showing great maturity on the pitch and already showing he’s ready to start in the second tier, a remarkable achievement for the 19-year-old.
He had one hell of a baptism of fire when he made his senior league debut in their 3-2 victory against AFC Bournemouth - but was arguably man of the match that day and has maintained his consistency since that November fixture.
In terms of former Royals, Sam Baldock is set to make his return, though he is probably likely to start on the bench.
The Last Meeting
Reading 3-1 Derby County
- Today’s home side have failed to keep a clean sheet in their last 10 Championship matches - a poor record they will look to improve.
- Both have sides have won three of their last six meetings against each other, with no draws. 1-1 today anyone?
- Prior to yesterday’s games, Derby County had the fourth-best defensive record in the second-tier this season, conceding just 22 goals in 24 games.
- They have also kept an exceptional nine clean sheets in these 24 league matches. Experience at the back seems to be paying off for Rooney’s men.
My Reading lineup: Southwood, Rahman, Dann, Holmes, Yiadom, Laurent, Drinkwater, Swift, Dele-Bashiru, Halilovic, Carroll
This lineup was a hard one to pick, because quite frankly, we have no real idea who’s recovered in time to be in action today. Hopefully we are in for a couple of pleasant surprises when the teamsheet comes out at 2pm.
Luke Southwood continues in goal once again though as someone who’s likely to be available, along with Baba Rahman and Andy Yiadom who are yet to jet off to the African Cup of Nations with Ghana.
Scott Dann and Tom Holmes also deserve to keep their places in the starting lineup at the expense of Liam Moore, with Tom McIntyre potentially returning this month to form a back three. I do like a back-three setup - but whether Pauno will adopt it regularly remains to be seen.
In a deep midfield role, Josh Laurent takes his place behind John Swift and Danny Drinkwater, both of whom will be looking to be the key creators with Alen Halilovic and Tom Dele-Bashiru supplying the wide threat. Halilovic looks reasonably decent in the centre against West Brom though, so it remains to be seen what Pauno does with him. Ovie Ejaria is the man to miss out at his expense.
Up top, Lucas Joao may be closing in on a return but it’s Andy Carroll who gets the nod after having plenty of time to rest and recover prior to today’s match. He will be looking to make the most of his remaining time in Berkshire in a bid to put himself in the shop window.
Moving on, it’s score prediction time. Can I see us getting a win from this one? Not really considering the form today’s visitors are in and the spirit they seem to have - but I fancy us to nick a late leveller and with the home advantage - hopefully we can make the most of it.
1-1 is what I’ll go with but it’s going to be a difficult tie.
Score Prediction: Reading 1-1 Derby County
Other Championship Fixture
Stoke City vs Preston North End is the only other fixture taking place in the Championship this afternoon with postponements elsewhere.
The Potters are also in action on Wednesday evening against Barnsley, with this clash at Oakwell kicking off at 7:45pm.