Reading will be looking to secure their fourth win in five league games this evening as they make the trip to Norfolk to face managerless Norwich City.
Although the Canaries were in fifth position yesterday afternoon prior to this round of Championship fixtures, Carrow Road became a toxic place to be with many recent performances under Dean Smith failing to live up to expectations.
The promotion contenders also recorded some disappointing results in the process and will be hoping to turn things around, starting with tonight’s clash against the Royals.
Ahead of kick-off, we have some thoughts on the upcoming game for you!
What? Championship Matchday 25
Who? Norwich City
Where? Carrow Road
When? Friday 30th December
Opposition Manager? Steve Weaver and Allan Russell (caretakers)
Although many people would criticise the Canaries’ decision to sack Dean Smith considering they are still in the promotion mix, his position became untenable when supporters started to turn on him. It’s not as if they turned on him quickly either, frustrations have been obvious for a while and it became clear a couple of games ago that a change was needed.
It will be interesting to see who they go for next. Russell Martin may be an obvious candidate considering his ties with the club - but it would take him a while to implement his style at Carrow Road and he hasn’t been that successful at Swansea either. The Swans’ defence has been a weak point for the South Wales outfit since his appointment and that might be one reason why the Norwich board decide to turn their back on their former defender.
Hopefully they make an appointment that most supporters can get on board with - because they will need their fans behind them if they want to give themselves the best chance of getting back to the Premier League at the first time of asking.
It was another good victory on Tuesday evening and although we weren’t convincing at times, we’re another three points closer to safety. Considering how difficult our upcoming games our with Norwich and West Brom both having strong squads, it was vital to get something from the Swansea game.
A huge amount of credit needs to go to the defence for holding on after failing to do so at the Swansea.com Stadium in October, with Amadou Mbengue playing his part despite only being on the pitch for a limited amount of time.
Tom McIntyre was also decent at left wing-back and most players did well to adapt to the 3-4-3 system. We may decide to go with the same formation - but a couple of changes in personnel are probably needed with some failing to perform to their potential against the Swans.
The Last Meeting
Reading 1-1 Norwich City
Starting XI: Lumley, Guinness-Walker, McIntyre, Holmes, Yiadom, Hoilett, Mbengue, Hendrick, Meite, Joao, Ince
Joe Lumley starts between the sticks following a bright display on Tuesday - but will probably need to be even more convincing tonight if we want to win three points.
There’s one change in defence with Tom McIntyre moving into a central position, Naby Sarr coming out of the starting lineup following a couple of underwhelming displays and Nesta Guinness-Walker replacing him. Andy Yiadom and Junior Hoilett start on the right again - and will be hoping to make an impact in the final third.
In the middle, Amadou Mbengue replaces Mamadou Loum who was poor against Russell Martin’s side despite claiming an assist for Tom Ince’s goal. Mbengue starts alongside Jeff Hendrick, who managed to get himself on the scoresheet against tonight’s opponents earlier in the season.
Yakou Meite and Ince start on the wings again - but Andy Carroll comes out for Lucas Joao with the former England international potentially benefitting from a rest.
Three changes seem about right - but it remains to be seen whether Paul Ince wants to stay with a similar lineup or not.
Score Prediction: Norwich City 1-1 Reading
Here are my predictions for this round of second-tier fixtures (all take place today):
Birmingham City 2-1 Hull City
Stoke City 0-4 Burnley
Swansea City 1-2 Watford