Reading will be looking to maintain their unbeaten run as they travel to the English capital to face Queens Park Rangers this evening, eager to impress in front of the Sky Sports cameras.
Paul Ince’s side performed admirably against Norwich City in midweek - and will take plenty of confidence from that game against Dean Smith’s men considering they deserved to win three points against the Canaries. Tonight’s opponents won’t be short of confidence either, with Michael Beale’s men handing league leaders Sheffield United their first defeat of the season.
The west London outfit have started the season very well - and this evening’s assignment will be a tough one for the visitors who could go top of the table with a victory. QPR, meanwhile, will overtake the Royals if they claim three points.
This looks set to be an excellent occasion - and ahead of kick-off - we have some facts and thoughts for you!
What? Championship Matchday 13
Who? Queens Park Rangers
Where? Loftus Road
When? Friday 7th October
Opposition Manager? Michael Beale
Queens Park Rangers:
At the time of writing, it’s currently unclear whether Chris Willock or Seny Dieng will be available, so it will be interesting to see whether they will be fit for the hosts in time for this clash. Both are key players for Beale’s side, especially Willock who has been an exceptional signing for the club since his arrival in the English capital, establishing himself as a key midfielder alongside Ilias Chair.
The potential absence of Dieng will give QPR supporters flashbacks to last season. How many goalkeepers appeared for them last term? Their current first-choice stopper certainly did, as well as David Marshall and Keiren Westwood. Youngster Murphy Mahoney also managed to make a couple of appearances and in fairness to him, he did exceptionally well considering his inexperience.
In terms of the club in general, they seem to be on the right track following Mark Warburton’s spell, with the ex-Brentford manager able to put the second-tier side in a much better position both on and off the pitch.
The one thing they struggled with under the 60-year-old was consistency over a full season - and they would have been one of the favourites to win the play-offs last season if they had managed to retain their form from the early stages of the campaign.
Things are looking up for them though, with Beale making the step up from coaching to management extremely well. With the exception of tonight and the reverse fixture, I wish them all the best of luck, even though they’re the fake hoops.
What a performance on Tuesday! Considering the strength of the Canaries, many people were expecting us to come out of that game with no points to our name. But we fought bravely, were threatening going forward and defended reasonably well too, arguably making us worthy of the three points.
It wasn’t meant to be in the end - but that will only make us hungrier for a win this evening and if we can keep things tight at the back, there’s every chance we could get something from this tough clash.
There are a few players who deserve special mentions for their performance against Norwich. Junior Hoilett was nothing short of superb, especially in the first half. Andy Carroll was an integral figure for us, Nesta Guinness-Walker stepped up admirably once again and Sam Hutchinson was a crucial figure in defence.
But the one player who went under the radar was Tom McIntyre. Not only did he defend well, but he was composed on the ball and his passing was magnificent, helping to relieve pressure off the defence and start attacks. He’s definitely one to watch tonight following some promising performances in recent times.
Opposition Player I’d Like: Ilias Chair
There are a couple of players I could have gone for, with former Royal Rob Dickie one player that could have been useful for us this evening.
Not only would he have been a real asset in central defence - but his presence would have allowed Hutchinson to operate in midfield. The latter was excellent in the middle of the park against Wigan Athletic and Huddersfield Town, helping to break up their attacks and operating as a defensive shield in front of the back three.
But because I want another attacking midfielder, I’ll go with Chair. His inconsistency has been questioned in the past - but the Moroccan can be one of the second-tier’s brightest players on his day and has done reasonably well this season - recording three goals and five assists in 12 league appearances.
Someone like Chair, who can be a real contributor from midfield, could keep us at the top end of the table. It’s just a shame he probably wouldn’t come to us at the moment, even if we weren’t under restrictions.
The Last Meeting
QPR 4-0 Reading
Starting XI: Lumley, Guinness-Walker, McIntyre, Hutchinson, Holmes, Hoilett, Loum, Fornah, Hendrick, Ince, Carroll
Joe Lumley starts against his former side - and will be hoping to be even less busy than he was in midweek - although that’s probably impossible. He didn’t really have much to do against Norwich - but his distribution was fine.
With Baba Rahman remaining out of action, Guinness-Walker starts once more following two strong displays following the international break, with Hoilett remaining in the first 11 too with the Canadian performing excellently at wing-back since the start of the season.
McIntyre, Hutchinson and Tom Holmes operate as the three centre-backs again - and all deserve their places following a brave display last time out - executing their game plan perfectly and remaining calm in possession. They could have easily crumbled against the likes of Josh Sargent and Teemu Pukki - but stood up to both extremely well.
As I said last time, I think it’s important to have Mamadou Loum in the middle of the park as a physical presence, especially with Hutchinson returning to central defence. He had a mixed display against the Canaries - but did reasonably well and starts alongside Tyrese Fornah and Jeff Hendrick once more. The latter has done extremely well in recent games following criticism from Reading fans and supporters of the Republic of Ireland.
Tom Ince and Andy Carroll could be the front two once more, although I wouldn’t be too upset to see Lucas Joao come back into the lineup. It remains to be seen where he would fit in though, with no one performing badly in midweek.
You know the drill - here are my predictions for this weekend:
Birmingham City 2-1 Bristol City
Blackburn Rovers 2-0 Rotherham United
Blackpool 1-3 Watford
Coventry City 2-2 Burnley
Millwall 0-1 Middlesbrough
Norwich City 2-1 Preston North End
Stoke City 1-3 Sheffield United
Swansea City 0-1 Sunderland
West Brom 0-2 Luton Town
Wigan Athletic 2-1 Cardiff City
Huddersfield Town 1-1 Hull City