Reading will be hoping to build on an impressive win at the weekend as they take on Birmingham City, with three points for either side going a long way in securing their Championship status for the next campaign.
Derby’s win on Saturday afternoon just goes to show the Royals cannot afford to take their foot off the gas at this stage despite coming out on top at Deepdale - and they will be hoping to experience a new (interim) manager bounce as former England international Paul Ince comes in alongside Michael Gilkes to take charge.
The away side have experienced a new signings bounce with the likes of Lyle Taylor, Onel Hernandez and Juninho Bacuna all coming in during the winter window and all making a real impact for Lee Bowyer’s men.
They will be optimistic about winning a point or three tonight - but who will come out on top? We shall wait and see.
For now, here are the facts and stats you need to know ahead of this evening’s clash.
What? Championship Matchday 33
Who? Birmingham City
Where? Select Car Leasing Stadium
When? Tuesday 22nd February 2022
Opposition Manager? Lee Bowyer
What an eventful past few days/weeks/years! First of all, our best wishes have to go to Veljko Paunovic who left his post on Saturday. Unfortunately, it was a case of needing to push him out in the end, but this departure is the best for all parties because he looked unwell towards the final stages of his tenure. He can now reunite with his family for a while before seeing what opportunities come up next. Good luck to him!
Moving on, Ince is a strange appointment but hopefully we can all get behind him. There are no guarantees he will be here for the remainder of the season anyway, so it will be interesting to see how the former England international gets on. Having Gilkes alongside him provides me with a bit of confidence, so let’s hope they can get off to a winning start.
Birmingham seem to be split into two parts at the moment: 1. The manager and Technical Director Gary Gardner and; 2. The owners.
Bowyer and Gardner seem to be a decent team and although the former’s results on the pitch haven’t exactly been sparkling at times, their recruitment has been spot on and they should be commended for that. These transfer decisions should help the Blues to drag themselves away from lower midtable mediocrity, though their board may also have a big role to play in where they are in the coming years.
As many people will already know, there have been protests against their owners and we can only hope Birmingham fans get the change in owners they crave. They will certainly pack out that away end tonight.
One to Watch: Juninho Bacuna
Not only have Taylor and Hernandez made a real impact up top for the Blues, especially important with Troy Deeney and Scott Hogan both out of action for this one, but Bacuna has stepped up very well since his permanent arrival from Rangers.
Brother of former Royal Leandro, the 24-year-old left Huddersfield for Rangers last summer before returning last month and has been an integral part of Bowyer’s attack in the absence of Manchester United loanee Tahith Chong.
He’s definitely one to look out for - but whether he can make a real impact tonight or not depends on whether he’s on top form.
The Last Meeting
Birmingham City 1-2 Reading
- Reading have scored two or more goals in 13 of their 32 league games this season - a promising stat in attack.
- However, the Royals have only managed to concede less than two goals in a match in just one of their 11 competitive games in 2022.
- Today’s hosts have gone winless in their previous three home meetings with their upcoming opponents. There will be no shortage of motivation to get a result then.
- Birmingham have managed to get themselves on the scoresheet in each of their previous 10 league matches - last firing a blank in the Championship against Blackburn Rovers in mid-December.
My lineup: Hein, McIntyre, Holmes, Morrison, Yiadom, Rinomhota, Drinkwater, Hoilett, Swift, Ince, Joao
Karl Hein starts once again after a reasonably solid performance at the weekend, though his distribution still needs a bit of work. He has the potential to be an extremely good kicker if he can improve his accuracy slightly - and if he can improve - that could be a weapon we could use for the remainder of the season.
Baba Rahman came off at the weekend and at the time of writing this (Sunday afternoon), it’s currently unclear as to whether he will be available. If he’s not 100% fit, Tom McIntyre starts at left-back after putting in a solid performance at Deepdale. We may lose a bit of attacking threat on the left because of that - but Rahman can’t be risked. Andy Yiadom keeps his place on the right.
At the heart of defence, the pairing of Tom Holmes and Michael Morrison continue once again, although I would have taken out the former for McIntyre if Rahman had come away from the weekend unscathed. Holmes didn’t perform terribly against PNE but he could probably do with a bit of time out of the team after a gruelling past couple of months. That period will help to make him a better player though.
Fair play to Danny Drinkwater - because he put in a decent shift in Lancashire and despite pre-match criticism - probably deserves to keep his place alongside Andy Rinomhota. This familiarity will help to create stability.
The front four also remains the same with Lucas Joao another man to prove me wrong at the weekend. He was superb and the three behind him were also solid. John Swift improved massively and we can only hope he can maintain his performance levels from Preston.
Yakou Meite will be a great asset to have from the bench as well, so he could be a real game-changer if the tie remains in the balance late on.
In terms of the result, it really could go either way, so I’ll sit on the fence and go for a 2-2 in this one. Our defensive vulnerabilities won’t disappear overnight though.
Score Prediction: Reading 2-2 Birmingham City
Other Championship Fixtures
Tuesday 22nd February (all 7:45pm KO):
Bristol City vs Coventry City
Hull City vs Barnsley
Middlesbrough vs West Bromwich Albion
Preston North End vs Nottingham Forest
Swansea City vs AFC Bournemouth
Wednesday 23rd February (all 7:45pm KO):
Derby County vs Millwall
Fulham vs Peterborough United
Huddersfield Town vs Cardiff City
Queens Park Rangers vs Blackpool
Sheffield United vs Blackburn Rovers
Stoke City vs Luton Town