Football is finally back! Reading return to action this afternoon as they face an in-form Coventry City side, who will be confident of picking up at least a point.
The Sky Blues made a slow start to the campaign with their postponed home matches not helping their cause - but they have been in formidable form recently and will be hoping to be in the promotion mix at the end of this season after missing out last term.
Particularly good at home, Mark Robins’ men would have been hoping to be at the CBS Arena again today but this is still a good opportunity to pick up three points against a Reading side that will be hopeful of getting something from the game as well as the hosts.
Will one team come out on top? That remains to be seen.
Here’s everything you need to know ahead of this afternoon’s clash.
What? Championship Matchday 22
Who? Coventry City
Where? Select Car Leasing Stadium
When? Saturday 10th December 2022
Opposition Manager? Mark Robins
The win against Hull City was much-needed before the international break - because we weren’t in brilliant shape coming into that clash at the MKM Stadium.
Of course this season isn’t going to be an easy one despite our fast start - but alarm bells should be ringing despite this victory because some of our performances before the interval simply weren’t good enough. Failing to show enough in the final third, that needs to improve with some of the attacking options we have, though you feel another advanced midfielder would be ideal to provide some more depth in this area.
If we can offload Liam Moore and Scott Dann, bring in Michael Hector and a backup for Ince, that would be a dream January window. There’s probably no chance of that happening though because it would be difficult to see Moore tearing up his contract without some form of financial reward. In fairness to him, he has every right to see out the remainder of his deal.
There’s been so much noise surrounding their takeover and stadium situation during the past couple of weeks, so the Sky Blues’ supporters will just be glad they can focus on what’s happening on the pitch this afternoon.
This is a club that has a great amount of potential - but they need to reduce off-field noise and find a way to keep their best assets if they want to remain a force at this level. Manager Robins is one of these assets, managing to transform his side into promotion competitors despite the club’s limited resources. And it doesn’t seem like he will leave the club anytime soon, something that will come as a real boost to the Midlands outfit.
The likes of Viktor Gyokeres, Callum O’Hare and Gus Hamer may be very good players to have at this level - but things would probably fall apart at the CBS Arena without the 52-year-old so likely future owner Doug King needs to do everything in his power to ensure he remains at the club.
His progress with the Sky Blues this term has been particularly impressive because they didn’t exactly enjoy the most successful summer transfer window, with Dom Hyam leaving for Blackburn Rovers and Tayo Adaramola’s loan deal failing to work out with the youngster already returning to Crystal Palace.
Opposition Player I’d Like: Viktor Gyokeres
This section usually includes a player that could come in and fill a position we need to address.
O’Hare is someone that could play in the advanced midfield role and that would be ideal for us so we wouldn’t have to rely on Tom Ince - and the likes of Kyle McFadzean and Jonathan Panzo could potentially be assets in central defence.
But I can’t look past striker Gyokeres, who has recorded nine goals in 19 league appearances this term.
Not only is he prolific - but he can dribble with the ball extremely well and is blessed with pace too - making him a potentially good target for Premier League sides ahead of next month’s transfer window.
At this stage, he would probably benefit from staying put at his current side where he’s already settled - and there’s a chance he could end up reaching the top flight next year with the Sky Blues if they can continue to impress after a promising run of victories before the World Cup break.
The Last Meeting
Reading 2-3 Coventry City
Starting XI: Lumley, Guinness-Walker, Mbengue, Holmes, Yiadom, Hoilett, Loum, Fornah, Ince, Meite, Long
Joe Lumley comes back in after recovering from his injury setback, with his return good news for the Royals considering he’s been much better than many of us had expected.
Nesta Guinness-Walker comes in for Baba Rahman to provide us with a more threatening option on the left-hand side, although you have to give the latter credit for his assist against Portugal.
We need to see more of that from the Ghanaian when given the license to get forward. Junior Hoilett starts on the other side and should be fit enough to play after seeing Canada knocked out at the group stages.
With Tom McIntyre, Sam Hutchinson and Naby Sarr all probably out, Amadou Mbengue and Andy Yiadom start in central defence with Tom Holmes sandwiched between the latter duo.
Hutchinson would have been useful in a defensive midfield role today - but his absence could make space for Mamadou Loum with Tyrese Fornah also coming in. The Nottingham Forest loan move deserves more game time, so it would be good to see him start this afternoon.
Tom Ince starts once more behind Yakou Meite and Shane Long, both of whom could cause Coventry’s defence real problems without McFadzean available.
In terms of a score prediction, this game should be a close one! With this in mind, I’ll go for a 1-1 draw! A point will do today - avoiding a loss will be just as important as securing a victory.
Score Prediction: Reading 1-1 Coventry City
Here are my predictions for this weekend’s other fixtures in the division:
Blackburn Rovers 1-1 Preston North End
Rotherham United 2-1 Bristol City
Blackpool 0-2 Birmingham City
Middlesbrough 2-0 Luton Town
Millwall 3-1 Wigan Athletic
Sheffield United 2-0 Huddersfield Town
Stoke City 0-0 Cardiff City
Swansea City 2-1 Norwich City
Queens Park Rangers 1-3 Burnley
Watford 2-1 Hull City
Sunderland 2-2 West Brom