The football is back! Reading return to the Select Car Leasing Stadium after a long international break to take on Huddersfield Town, who will be desperate to get off to winning ways under their new manager.
Mark Fotheringham has been appointed in time to take charge of his first game of the Terriers - and some will see this as a good opportunity for him considering how shaky the Royals were against Sunderland during their last home game.
The hosts come into this tie as favourites though - something that sounds strange considering the contrasting situations they were in last season. Things can change very quickly though - and that will be encouraging for the Terriers who will need to start getting more points on the board sooner rather than later.
Will they be able to get anything from this game though? Let’s wait and see.
For now, here are some thoughts ahead of kick-off.
What? Championship Matchday 11
Who? Huddersfield Town
Where? Select Car Leasing Stadium
When? Saturday 1st October
Opposition Manager? Mark Fotheringham
I don’t think I can feel fully settled until I know we’ve done all of our transfer business until January! Judging from Mark Bowen’s comments the other night though, it looks as though we’re done.
With our injuries, a centre-back would be ideal but an attacking midfielder would be too (as I’ve said many times before!). It’s just frustrating that Scott Dann, Liam Moore and Naby Sarr are still out injured at this stage - because we have enough depth in this area if it wasn’t for these setbacks when you consider the fact Andy Yiadom and Amadou Mbengue can operate there as well.
I do worry about our potential lack of creativity if we fail to address the attacking midfield area - but the likes of Carroll and Mbengue could leave in January if things don’t work out for them and you have to wonder whether Scott Dann and Liam Moore are willing to leave the club before the expiration of their contracts. The former leaving is probably more likely at this stage.
Not only would a departure or two free up space in the 25-man squad - but it will also free up wages for more arrivals and that will be important too.
I’ll always admire the Terriers’ supporters for the way they acted after the 2017 play-off final. They were very classy and that’s the reason why I wanted them to win promotion last season!
It wasn’t to be though - and that has proved to be costly with Lewis O’Brien and Harry Toffolo leaving the John Smith’s Stadium in recent months. Both were crucial to their cause, with Toffolo contributing heavily in the final third despite the fact he operated as a left wing-back!
Looking at the present situation, things do feel different in West Yorkshire and not in a good way. The appointment of Danny Schofield was a disaster and it remains to be seen whether some of their summer signings will end up fulfilling their potential. On top of that, not having O’Brien, Toffolo and Levi Colwill at their disposal is a blow for them, though Michal Helik could be a good replacement for the latter.
Their future could still be bright though - and I hope they can get themselves out of the drop zone sooner rather than later as long as it isn’t detrimental to us!
Opposition Player I’d Like: Duane Holmes
Holmes is a great player to have around the box and could be a decent attacking midfielder for the Royals, though he mainly operates on the wing.
The fact he does play out wide could give Ince an option to tweak his tactics mid-game though (although some would argue that’s not an advantage considering how disastrous a formation change was against Sunderland!).
Of course we won’t have the funds to make a deal happen, but it’s good to have a look at players from other teams who could make an impact.
The Last Meeting
Reading 3-4 Huddersfield Town
Starting XI: Lumley, Rahman, McIntyre, Hutchinson, Holmes, Yiadom, Fornah, Loum, Ince, Joao, Meite
Joe Lumley has been a real asset for most of this season and he will be hoping to be a match-winner once again, though the Royals will be hoping he isn’t tested too much. Dean Bouzanis, meanwhile, will be feeling frustrated that he isn’t playing more following a solid showing against Middlesbrough in August.
Junior Hoilett can also feel hard done by - because he probably deserves a place in the starting lineup, potentially ahead of one of Holmes or McIntyre. But the latter two get the opportunity to start once more, with Hutchinson returning to central defence following his spell in midfield at the DW Stadium.
Yiadom moves out to the right-hand side at Hoilett’s expense - but the Canadian could be an excellent option to have on the bench as someone who’s made a real difference this season.
In midfield, Jeff Hendrick has to drop out for me. The Irishman hasn’t been horrendous - but he hasn’t done enough to keep his place in the starting lineup and Mamadou Loum returns to the first 11 in his place alongside Tyrese Fornah.
Tom Ince starts in an advanced midfield role again - and will need to keep his performance levels high with Ovie Ejaria available once more. The latter hasn’t done enough in recent times to be an instant starter though, so it would be a surprise to see the ex-Liverpool man in the 11 today.
With Ince the only starter in the attacking midfield role, that allows Lucas Joao and Yakou Meite to start up top together. Those three front men should be a real threat - but it will be interesting to see how they combine.
Score Prediction: Reading 2-2 Huddersfield Town
Here are my predictions for this round of second-tier fixtures:
Blackburn Rovers 1-1 Millwall
Blackpool 0-2 Norwich City
Bristol City 2-1 QPR
Cardiff City 1-4 Burnley
Coventry City 1-2 Middlesbrough
Rotherham United 0-1 Wigan Athletic
Sheffield United 2-0 Birmingham City
Sunderland 2-0 Preston North End
West Brom 2-1 Swansea City
Stoke City 1-0 Watford