It’s time for the final game before the international break as Reading host high-flyers Blackburn Rovers, who will be hoping to strengthen their promotion credentials with a win at the Select Car Leasing Stadium this afternoon.
Though they are currently without Ben Brereton-Diaz, Tony Mowbray’s men will be in high spirits following a second-half comeback against Derby County in midweek, a huge victory that may set them on the right course following an underwhelming spell of form.
They face a team currently operating at the other end of the table, with the Royals failing to live up to expectations this season considering the calibre of players they have at their disposal. Their draw against AFC Bournemouth on Tuesday will give them a bit of momentum coming into this tie though - and they will be looking to utilise their home advantage.
Who will come out on top though? Let’s wait and see.
Here’s everything you need to know ahead of this afternoon’s clash in Berkshire.
What? Championship Matchday 38
Where? Select Car Leasing Stadium
When? Saturday 19th March 2022
Opposition Manager? Tony Mowbray
Barnsley’s victory in midweek is a real source of concern, so that’s one of the reasons why I wasn’t as happy as many others just to get a point from the Vitality Stadium. On paper, it’s a cracking result and I can’t fault the guys for their efforts, it was a much-deserved point. However, it’s almost disappointing we didn’t come away with all three considering how well we did.
At half-time, I was expecting a repeat of Nottingham Forest because Bournemouth was so poor in the first half. But we did well after the interval and I have to praise Danny Drinkwater who caused problems with his range of passing. I’ve criticised him heavily for some of his performances in recent months - but I have to give credit where it’s due.
Today’s match will be another tough one, perhaps even tougher than midweek considering they have front men who can cause real problems. Dominic Solanke may have scored more goals than the likes of Sam Gallagher, Tyrhys Dolan and Reda Khadra this season, but those three will be a threat with their movement and that means the likes of Michael Morrison and Tom Holmes will need to be at the top of their games to stop their advances.
What a season it has been for the Lancashire side, a successful campaign that many (including myself) didn’t expect from Mowbray’s men considering the summer they had. Not only did they lose the likes of Adam Armstrong and Harvey Elliott - but they also didn’t bring anyone in before the start of the league season and were seemingly limited in what they could do - with four loanees and one permanent signing coming in during the latter stages of August.
Thankfully for Mowbray, Khadra and Jan Paul van Hecke have become two of the first names on the teamsheet as key players, proving their worth in the second tier on loan from Brighton & Hove Albion and adapting to life at Ewood Park seamlessly. In terms of the other two loanees, Leighton Clarkson has already returned to Liverpool and Ian Poveda has been injured, so there shouldn’t be too much instability in the summer when Rovers’ temporary players return to their parent clubs.
That will give them an advantage over a side like Nottingham Forest if both sides remain in the Championship, with all five of their current loan players key to their current success.
One to Watch: Reda Khadra
With no Championship experience under his belt before his temporary move to Rovers in the summer, I was sceptical about how much of an impact Khadra would make and how well he would fill the shoes of ex-loanee Elliott.
However, the 20-year-old has been brilliant, proving to be a real threat both down the wing and through the middle, fitting Blackburn’s system perfectly and establishing himself as a real asset.
His penalty miss away at Sheffield United and missed chances around that time looked set to be costly for his confidence - but he responded well against QPR in the latter stages of last month. He may have blown a couple of opportunities against Mark Warburton’s men - but he was lively throughout and managed to clinch a deserved goal late on in that match.
It wouldn’t be a surprise to see him score again this afternoon if given the chance to do so, needing to step up to the plate in the absence of Brereton-Diaz.
The Last Meeting
Blackburn Rovers 2-0 Reading
- Reading have won four points from six away at the top two sides in the Championship. Will this provide them with hope against another high-flyer?
- However, they have conceded in the first half in their last four matches. Can Rovers get off to a quick start and capitalise on that?
- Prior to their 3-1 win against Derby in midweek, Blackburn scored just one goal in their last nine league matches. Can they put their goalscoring demons behind them with another emphatic victory today?
- However, they have only conceded eight goals in their last 11 league games. That’s not a bad record at all.
My lineup: Nyland, Yiadom, Dann, Holmes, Morrison, Ince, Rinomhota, Laurent, Ejaria, Dele-Bashiru, Joao
Orjan Nyland had a solid debut in midweek and because of this, he has to start once again this afternoon. His distribution was also very good, something that could be crucial to our overall play.
I’m sticking with a back five, with Andy Yiadom and Tom Ince able to push up as wing-backs. It may seem harsh to take Tom McIntyre out because it’s clear he hasn’t been performing well due to the fact he’s not a centre-back.
He did a reasonably good job against Birmingham but has struggled at times since then - and though he could return to the centre in this system - Scott Dann is available from the bench and may provide the experience needed in this match.
Despite my comments about Drinkwater earlier, he starts on the bench in this one with Andy Rinomhota and Josh Laurent in midfield. The latter was lively in an advanced position - but I feel he’s just missing that little bit of quality to be a more attacking player at the moment and does a much better job when he’s deeper. Bringing Drinkwater on at some point could be good though considering his passing range.
Slightly higher up the pitch, Ovie Ejaria retains his starting spot but plays in a more central position, with Tom Dele-Bashiru also a real threat. His first touch is probably a bit better than Yakou Meite’s and you almost feel this ball control will be needed in tight spaces, though the Ivorian should be introduced at some point.
Lucas Joao starts up top once again if he’s fit enough after recovering from Covid-19.
In terms of the result, we ideally need three points from this one considering Barnsley’s form and the fact Derby can’t be written off. But we may just fall short this time, with another 1-1 potentially on the horizon.
Score Prediction: Reading 1-1 Blackburn Rovers
Other Championship Fixtures
All fixtures get underway on Saturday 19th March (3pm KO) unless stated:
Derby County vs Coventry City
Sheffield United vs Barnsley (Both 12:30pm KO)
Bristol City vs West Bromwich Albion
Huddersfield Town vs AFC Bournemouth
Hull City vs Luton Town
Stoke City vs Millwall
Swansea City vs Birmingham City
Queens Park Rangers vs Peterborough United (Sunday 20th March; 12:30pm KO)