Reading arguably face the most important game of the season so far as they travel to South Yorkshire to take on fellow relegation battlers Barnsley.
Both sides head into this clash with differing moods, with the visitors potentially full of confidence after their 1-0 victory against Blackburn Rovers before the international break. The Tykes, on the other hand, will be hoping to bounce back from their local derby defeat against Sheffield United, though that may have been forgotten about long ago with the international break behind them.
This one looks set to be a tight game - but who will come out on top? Let’s hope it’s the away side - but we can’t guarantee that!
For now, here’s everything you need to know ahead of this weekend’s crunch clash.
What? Championship Matchday 39
When? Saturday 2nd April 2022
Opposition Manager? Poya Asbaghi
The Tykes have been full of surprises this season - and I have to say I’m shocked about their resurgence. Not exactly enjoying a new manager bounce under Asbaghi, they looked set for League One and when Derby County overtook them, that looked to be a key knockout blow. However, January recruits Amine Bassi and Domingos Quina have given them a real boost and this business could be key to their survival hopes.
Admittedly, it looked like they needed to do something more radical to give them a chance of staying up but this small injection of fresh blood and the presence of Carlton Morris has gone a long way in making them competitive again. At home, they’re a dangerous outfit and if they can improve their away form slightly, then they have every chance of remaining afloat in the second tier. This is why the Royals need to keep their foot on the gas regardless of the result this afternoon.
The international break had post-Birmingham (H) vibes - because although the Blackburn match felt like a big moment and three points closer to safety - there’s still a long way to go and we could easily be dragged back into a terrible situation with a loss today. If I was offered a draw, I would probably take it despite how important a victory could be and we definitely have the players on paper to get a result. Losing Andy Rinomhota and Yakou Meite is a big blow - but now it’s up to others to step up to the plate and try to remain fully fit from now until the end of the season!
Having Baba Rahman back is good news though - and I would certainly start him considering how exposed Tom McIntyre has been at left-back at times. Credit to him for stepping up and he has had bright moments, but Rahman is probably a bit quicker and because of that, the latter may be a better asset to have on the left-hand side.
One to Watch: Carlton Morris
Cauley Woodrow’s injury looked set to be a big blow for this afternoon’s hosts - but Morris has been a big asset in his absence and has not only contributed with his goals - but also his all-round play.
However, his goals have been his most valuable contribution to the cause, recording eight in 23 competitive appearances along with three assists. He had a similar record with the Tykes last term so it will be interesting to see how well he does if given a full season without injuries to make an impact.
If he can remain fit between now and the end of the season, we should be worried.
The Last Meeting
Reading 1-0 Barnsley
- Barnsley have gone unbeaten in their last five home games.
- They have kept just one clean sheet in their last six league matches. Understandable for a side competing near the bottom and our record is probably worse, to be fair.
- Reading have gone unbeaten in five of their last eight league matches. A rare positive RFC stat from yours truly.
- And finally, I have a freebie via the TTE Twitter account:
After quickly rechecking that last stat... #ReadingFC are unbeaten in their last nine matches against Barnsley AND unbeaten in their last nine visits to Oakwell.— The Tilehurst End (@TheTilehurstEnd) March 31, 2022
My lineup: Nyland, Rahman, Holmes, Morrison, Yiadom, Laurent, Drinkwater, Ejaria, Swift, Ince, Joao
Orjan Nyland is the man to start between the sticks again after a couple of competent performances. He has been crucial so far and could be vital for the Royals again today.
As teased earlier, I’ve gone with Rahman on the left instead of McIntyre on the condition that the former is fit enough to play the full 90. Tom Holmes and Michael Morrison retain their places in the centre though, although it’s weird not to have Scott Dann in the starting lineup.
When he first arrived, I thought he would be one of the first names on the teamsheet, barring an injury or suspension. Nonetheless, he’s still a good option to have regardless of whether he starts or not. Andy Yiadom takes his place on the right again.
In Andy Rinomhota’s absence, Tom Dele-Bashiru could fill in. However, John Swift can return to the lineup, leaving Josh Laurent and Danny Drinkwater as the two starters at the heart of midfield with Swift just ahead of them. Credit to the latter for his impact after coming on, he showed exactly why he will be a big miss when he leaves in the summer.
I’m not a huge fan of Ovie Ejaria on the left - but he gets a start and so does Tom Ince - who is proving to be just as much of an asset going back as he is in attack.
And up top, it has to be Lucas Joao.
Score Prediction: Barnsley 1-1 Reading
Other Championship Fixtures
All fixtures get underway on Saturday 1st April (3pm KO) unless stated:
Blackpool vs Nottingham Forest (12:30pm KO)
AFC Bournemouth vs Bristol City
Cardiff City vs Swansea City
Coventry City vs Blackburn Rovers
Derby County vs Preston North End
Luton Town vs Millwall
Peterborough United vs Middlesbrough
Queens Park Rangers vs Fulham
Stoke City vs Sheffield United
Birmingham City vs West Bromwich Albion (Sunday 3rd April; 3pm KO)