Reading will be desperate to win their third consecutive league game this evening as they take on fellow high-flyers Norwich City.
Tonight looks set to be one of the Royals’ toughest matches of the 2022/23 campaign - and they will be hoping to do much better than they did against Sheffield United in November - with the home advantage potentially set to benefit them.
Already managing to tally up 21 points, they are averaging nearly two points per game and though this may be unsustainable, they are getting themselves closer to the total needed to secure survival.
Norwich, meanwhile, are expecting to be at the top end of the division throughout this season and with that, the pressure is surely on them to win three points this evening.
Whether they can secure the away win remains to be seen though.
Ahead of kick-off, we have some thoughts on both sides!
What? Championship Matchday 12
Who? Norwich City
Where? Select Car Leasing stadium
When? Tuesday 4th October
Opposition Manager? Dean Smith
The first-half display against Huddersfield was superb - and that should give us plenty of confidence coming into this game. We fully deserved the three points and although we didn’t perform as well in the second 45, we were rarely troubled at the back. Not getting the clean sheet is majorly frustrating but it didn’t cost us in the end - and the win was all that mattered on the day ahead of two tough fixtures against the Canaries and Queens Park Rangers.
We’re probably the underdogs in this fixture despite our decent home record - and that probably suits us in all fairness. What made Saturday’s victory so impressive is the fact we managed to handle being favourites - and that’s a promising sign for future games.
In terms of transfers, it looks like we’re done until January which is a shame, because there are a couple of positions (central defence and attacking midfield) that could benefit from another option. Looking at these two positions though, there are youngsters who can step up to the plate and do a job, with Mamadi Camara potentially able to fill in for Tom Ince and Ovie Ejaria.
In central defence, John Clarke and Nelson Abbey could make the step up to the first team if needed, though it’s currently unclear how the latter would fare. Clarke also needs more pitch time before we can make an accurate judgement on his ability and potential.
It previously looked as though Norwich would endure a much tougher season than many would have predicted - but they have recovered well since their slow start to the campaign and look like a real force under Smith. This is no real surprise considering the manager’s CV and the talented players he has at his disposal, with both Josh Sargent and Teemu Pukki likely to be crucial figures in getting the Canaries back to the Premier League at the first time of asking.
Unlike Burnley, Norwich didn’t undergo a huge rebuild in the summer and this has only helped to retain stability, giving them an advantage over the Clarets as they look to secure their place in the promotion mix. You can certainly see them remaining at the top end of the division alongside Sheffield United, though it remains to be seen whether they can be consistent enough to overtake the Blades.
Their depth will certainly help them, with the likes of Onel Hernandez and Danel Sinani benefitting from bright loan spells at Birmingham City and Huddersfield Town last term. It’s not just their quality that will provide the Royals with a tough test - but the depth they have too and the options they can bring off the bench.
Opposition Player I’d Like: Max Aarons
With Yiadom potentially out, having Aarons as an option down the right-hand side would be useful for us, especially as a player that can be a real asset in the final third.
John Swift has now departed, so having someone like the Norwich man who can provide us with an extra option going forward would have been valuable for us. It could be argued that we are more in need of a centre-back with Junior Hoilett able to operate on the right - but Aarons is a player that can stand out for his current side when on top form.
You just feel it’s only a matter of time before the full-back establishes himself as a first-teamer in the Premier League for the long term, with or without his current side.
And at 22, he’s someone we could potentially sell for a decent amount of money in the future. At the moment, we’re missing a player we could sell on for several millions, with Lucas Joao’s contract set to expire next summer and Ovie Ejaria’s inconsistency a real barrier to his progress.
The Last Meeting
Norwich City 4-1 Reading
Starting XI: Lumley, Rahman, McIntyre, Hutchinson, Holmes, Hoilett, Loum, Hendrick, Ince, Joao, Carroll
Joe Lumley would have been criticised more heavily at the weekend if Huddersfield’s goal had meant anything - but he has done reasonably well in recent months and we can probably let him off the hook because of that. It’s great to see he’s coming out for the ball though - and looks like a man who isn’t short of confidence at the moment.
With Baba Rahman and Andy Yiadom both potentially out injured, Nesta Guinness-Walker and Junior Hoilett start once again, with the former linking up extremely well with Tom McIntyre and performing admirably considering he hasn’t managed to get a huge number of minutes under his belt recently. You can also trust Hoilett to do a good job, though these recent injuries are a worry and will end up costing us points at some stage.
In central defence, Sam Hutchison will probably be forced to operate there and that’s a shame considering how well he has performed in midfield in recent games, establishing himself as a real asset. He will be needed in the backline though, along with Tom McIntyre and Tom Holmes who both performed well at the weekend.
With Hutchinson slotting into the back three, Mamadou Loum starts to provide us with a real presence in midfield, something that should help us to remain strong in the middle of the park. Jeff Hendrick starts alongside him following a promising display on Saturday - and the Irishman will be hoping to be just as effective tonight against a strong opposition.
Tom Ince has to be in the first 11 once again with his consistency impressing me - and he starts behind Lucas Joao and Andy Carroll. The former linked up play reasonably well on Saturday and put in a respectable shift - but he will be wanting to get himself on the scoresheet again sooner rather than later. Carroll, meanwhile, was a real presence up top and proved his worth last time out.
Score prediction time! I think I went with 2-2 last time and considering our home form has been excellent, it’s tempting to go with a similar scoreline. However, we do have to be realistic and acknowledge that we’re coming up against one of the best sides in the division. I’ll go with a 1-0 victory for the visitors - just because I want my team to prove me wrong again!
Score Prediction: Reading 0-1 Norwich City
Here are my predictions for midweek’s Championship fixtures:
Bristol City 1-2 Coventry City
Luton Town 3-1 Huddersfield Town
Sheffield United 1-0 Queens Park Rangers
Sunderland 2-0 Blackpool
Cardiff City 1-3 Blackburn Rovers
Burnley 2-1 Stoke City
Hull City 0-2 Wigan Athletic
Middlesbrough 1-1 Birmingham City
Rotherham United 0-1 Millwall
Watford 3-2 Swansea City
Preston North End 1-0 West Bromwich Albion