Reading come into tonight’s Championship fixture as the clear underdogs as they travel to face recently relegated outfit Watford.
The Hornets are still in the promotion mix at this stage - but will be disappointed with their start to the campaign considering the strength of their squad and the CV of their current manager. There’s still plenty of time for them to climb up the table further between now and the end of the season though - and have a good chance to bounce back against a Reading side who aren’t in great form at this point.
Paul Ince’s side may have seen this game as a free hit if they had won against Preston North End on Friday - but they ideally need a win on the board before they break up for the World Cup and they only have this game and their clash against Hull City to claim three points.
Whether they can take anything back to Berkshire remains to be seen though.
Ahead of tonight, we take a closer look at the Hornets and the Royals.
What? Championship Matchday 20
Where? Vicarage Road
When? Tuesday 8th November
Opposition Manager? Slaven Bilic
When you look at their squad, you would certainly say they have the quality to get themselves back to the Premier League at the first time of asking, as long as they can keep Joao Pedro and Ismaila Sarr at Vicarage Road beyond the January transfer window.
They managed to add some decent players to their squad in the summer, with Keinan Davis likely to be a real asset if he can remain fit. Keeping him in top condition will be a real challenge though - because he has been injured quite a bit over the past 12 months.
Overall though, they have a pretty decent squad and should only be looking to add a couple of players during the January transfer window if possible. The right-back area is one that may need to be looked at if they want to keep Dan Gosling in midfield - and it would be a major boost for them if they could get a deal over the line for Jerry Yates too.
An attacking four of Sarr, Pedro, Yates and Davis would be to die for, though Ken Sema can also do a decent job on the wing.
You just hope current boss Bilic is given the time needed to get the Hornets into shape - because owner Gino Pozzo has shown in the past that he isn’t afraid to pull the trigger when things are going wrong. The fans are fed up with it though - many just want stability now.
Friday wasn’t good enough unfortunately and the onus is on the Royals to come out fighting and put in a much-improved display.
We may be in a reasonably okay position at this point - but we need to start putting more points on the board sooner rather than later if relegation worries are to be eased.
It does feel as though we lost Friday’s game on Tuesday. Why? Because the performance against Luton Town was deemed acceptable. Don’t get me wrong, we defended reasonably well at Kenilworth Road but we fell well short in the final third and needed to vastly improve in that area against the Lilywhites, something we were unable to do.
Although Tom McIntyre, Mamadou Loum and other players have to take responsibility, Paul Ince’s starting lineup didn’t exactly tee us up nicely. The front two needed to change, Nesta Guinness-Walker needed to come in for Baba Rahman and Amadou Mbengue probably didn’t deserve to be dropped.
Both the coaching staff and the players need to give us a performance to be proud of this evening, although points are more important at this point.
Opposition Player I’d Like: Joao Pedro
Although he sometimes operates up top, Pedro can also play in the ten role and as a team that would benefit from another advanced midfielder, the Brazilian would be brilliant.
Of course there’s no chance of us getting him - but his quality would be game-changing for us - especially at this level with the 21-year-old only likely to get better.
In fact, it wouldn’t be a massive surprise if he was back in the Premier League next season, with or without his current side.
The Last Meeting
Watford 2-0 Reading
Starting XI: Lumley, Guinness-Walker, McIntyre, Holmes, Mbengue, Yiadom, Fornah, Loum, Hendrick, Ince, Long
You can’t help but feel Joe Lumley could have stopped one of Preston’s goals on Friday and that’s why I’ll be keeping a close eye on him tonight. He needs to be a game-changer.
McIntyre also needs to take responsibility - but he gets one last chance as a natural left-sided defender and his performance could be enhanced by the presence of Nesta Guinness-Walker, with the duo striking up a good partnership earlier in the season. Ken Sema has started on the right at times, so he could be Guinness-Walker’s direct opponent from the start this evening and not Ismaila Sarr. The two could possibly switch sides though.
Tom Holmes also gets another opportunity as a player that has impressed recently, along with Amadou Mbengue who operates at right centre-back. Andy Yiadom starts at right wing-back, though him and Mbengue could always switch if needed.
Packing the midfield would be ideal in our quest to get a clean sheet and some form of control in the game - and that’s why I’ve reluctantly chosen Loum again despite his poor performance last time out.
Tom Ince operates as the most advanced player of the four midfielders, starting behind Shane Long who should be given the chance to shine.
Score Prediction: Watford 2-0 Reading
Here are the rest of my predictions for tonight:
Birmingham City 2-1 Swansea City
Blackpool 1-3 Middlesbrough
Cardiff City 2-2 Hull City
Coventry City 3-0 Wigan Athletic
QPR 2-0 Huddersfield Town
Sheffield United 3-0 Rotherham United
Stoke City 1-1 Luton Town