Reading make the trip to South Wales this evening as they look to redeem themselves following back-to-back losses, with Swansea City their opponents.
The Swans may have suffered a heavy 4-0 defeat against Burnley at the weekend - but they have shown themselves to be a force in this division under Russell Martin in recent times and that should be a warning for the Royals. Nonetheless, both sides will see this as an opportunity to get three points on the board with both still at the top end of the table at this stage despite recent setbacks.
Who will come out on top tonight though? That remains to be seen.
For now, here are some of the things you need to know ahead of kick-off!
What? Championship Matchday 15
Who? Swansea City
Where? Swansea.com Stadium
When? Tuesday 18th October
Opposition Manager? Russell Martin
The Welsh side clearly have a lot of potential and under Martin, you feel it’s only a matter of time before they are challenging in the top half of the division throughout a campaign. Perhaps this is the season when they do get themselves back up into the promotion mix.
They’re a side that aren’t bad at creating chances - but their defence can be suspect at times and that could prove to be costly in their quest to finish in the top six. In fairness, they did strengthen at the back during the summer with Harry Darling and Nathan Wood both coming in - but Martin should be given the funds to bring in another option in January if needed because he deserves to be backed.
It’s not as if the Swans are in any danger of breaching financial rules after cashing in on some of their best assets in recent years, with Flynn Downes moving to West Ham United in the summer. You have to wonder whether Downes could have been retained because he was a key cog in their machine last season - but as long as some of that money is reinvested and they can retain some of their other key players - then I suppose you can’t grumble too much.
Saturday was poor - you have to call the performance what it was. We may not have conceded a huge number of goals at the weekend - but we weren’t up to scratch until the final stages of the game and by that time - it was pretty much too late anyway. Of course we should be expecting some performances that are below par, but Saturday was an excellent opportunity to get three points on the board and that’s what makes the display and result extremely frustrating.
Approaching a busy set of fixtures, the assignment is to get as many points on the board as possible before the World Cup arrives. If we can go into Christmas still in the top half, that will give us plenty of confidence in the months that follow and by the time the international tournament ends, we *should* have a decent number of players back fit. Whether we can have a nearly fully fit squad at our disposal at that point remains to be seen though.
The team needs to take these fixtures game by game though. Focusing too far ahead will be costly, so the focus must be on the short term.
Opposition Player I’d Like: Harry Darling
At 23, Darling is someone who could be sold on for a considerable amount in the future if he goes on to be a real success in South Wales.
Coming up from League One, it will take him some time to adapt to the challenges of the second tier but he’s already shown he can be a real asset going forward, scoring 10 times in all competitions last season.
For a side that can’t just rely on one player to score the goals needed to remain afloat in the division once more, Darling would be an excellent asset for the Berkshire outfit to have in the final third but it remains to be seen whether he could defend well enough to be a regular starter for the Royals.
During the Steve Coppell and Brian McDermott eras, he’s probably the type of player we would have signed, so it will be interesting to see how he gets on with the Swans.
Already working with Martin in the past at MK Dons, it shouldn’t take him too long to settle into life with his current club.
The Last Meeting
Reading 4-4 Swansea City
Starting XI: Lumley, Guinness-Walker, McIntyre, Holmes, Yiadom, Loum, Fornah, Ince, Joao, Meite
Saturday showed just how much of a different distribution can make and although Dean Bouzanis is a good kicker, the Australian and the forwards just weren’t on the same wavelength for much of the game. With this, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see Joe Lumley come back in if he’s fit and well again.
The back five remains the same and in fairness, we probably don’t have much choice but to go with Nesta Guinness-Walker, Tom McIntyre, Tom Holmes, Andy Yiadom and Junior Hoilett.
Mamadou Loum endured a mixed performance at the weekend but you feel we need someone like him in the middle of the park - and Tyrese Fornah comes back in to replace Jeff Hendrick.
Tom Ince continues in an attacking midfield role - but there’s one change up top with Yakou Meite coming back in for Andy Carroll. Ideally, Shane Long would be the man in the starting lineup but he didn’t even come off the bench on Saturday and it would perhaps be unwise to start him tonight because of that.
In terms of a score prediction, I’m not exactly optimistic despite our win at the Swansea.com Stadium last season. I’ll go with a 2-0 loss - but let’s hope for a better result!
Score Prediction: Swansea City 2-0 Reading
Here are my predictions for this round of Championship fixtures:
Huddersfield Town 1-1 Preston North End
Norwich City 1-2 Luton Town
Blackburn Rovers 2-1 Sunderland
Stoke City 3-1 Rotherham United
West Bromwich Albion 1-0 Bristol City
Birmingham City 1-2 Burnley
Blackpool 1-0 Hull City
Coventry City 2-1 Sheffield United
Queens Park Rangers 2-0 Cardiff City
Wigan Athletic 2-0 Middlesbrough
Millwall 1-2 Watford