Reading take to the stage at the Select Car Leasing Stadium once again this afternoon as they face Cardiff City, with a win potentially sealing the former’s survival.
Midweek’s victory felt like a massive step towards Championship football next season - but no one will be resting on their laurels with the likes of Barnsley, Derby County and Peterborough United all mathematically in the race still. This makes a win against this weekend’s opponents a potentially crucial one - and the Royals will be desperate to make the most of their home advantage.
Cardiff, meanwhile, pretty much secured their second-tier status some time ago following some shrewd January recruitment, though Steve Morison’s impact cannot be underestimated as an inexperienced manager but one with fresh ideas.
It remains to be seen how competitive they can be next season with their finances not exactly in the best shape - but they seem to be heading on a better path than they were under Mick McCarthy after struggling under the former Republic of Ireland boss earlier in the campaign.
Will their superior league position count for anything this afternoon though? Let’s wait and see.
For now, here’s everything you need to know ahead of this tie.
What? Championship Matchday 41
Who? Cardiff City
Where? Select Car Leasing Stadium
When? Saturday 9th April 2022
Opposition Manager? Steve Morison
The Stoke victory was a very satisfying one and the one big positive to come from Tuesday night is the fact we started so quickly, beginning on the front foot and that was a major reason why we took the lead early on. We need that same intensity every game and if we start this afternoon how we began in midweek, you would certainly back us to take the lead early on again.
Our off-field situation does still worry me because there’s a lot to sort out in the summer and there doesn’t seem to have been major changes behind the scenes. The latest meeting with STAR is also a source of concern - because there seems to be a real disconnect between the club and the fans and although that’s nothing new - the comments from the meeting have reinforced that. This summer is potentially an exciting (though challenging) project for a manager who will need to bring in quite a few players - but it could be a disaster if the appropriate planning doesn’t go into the upcoming window.
Not only has it been a dreadful season for the Royals, but also Cardiff who will be disappointed not to be competing higher in the table at this stage. Considering they looked doomed under former boss McCarthy earlier in the season though, they will just be grateful that they will be competing in the second tier next year. Bouncing back from their humiliating defeat against Swansea City
Their long-term future is uncertain with chairman Mehmet Dalman warning that the club’s finances weren't the best last October, although that situation may have changed with January’s sale of Kieffer Moore. To Morison’s credit, his recruitment in January was perfect on a very tight budget and if he can recruit a similar calibre of loanees next term, they could potentially have a much more successful campaign during 2022/23.
One to Watch: Jordan Hugill
It must have taken real courage for Hugill to come and hit the ground running in the Welsh capital - because he suffered a poor spell at West Bromwich Albion earlier in the season and was the subject of intense criticism from many because of that.
The 29-year-old was also under a lot of pressure when he first made the move to the Bluebirds because he was given the unenviable tasking of filling the void Kieffer Moore left with the Welsh international making the move to AFC Bournemouth on January deadline day.
He has thrived since moving to the Cardiff City Stadium though and he could do a lot worse than secure a permanent move to Morison’s men in the summer, though his future remains up in the air with parent club Norwich City potentially being relegated back to the second tier at the end of this term.
The Last Meeting
Cardiff City 0-1 Reading
- Reading have gone unbeaten in seven of their previous 10 league matches - not a bad record.
- They have also conceded just three goals in four games since their hammering at Nottingham Forest. Was that game at the City Ground a turning point?
- Cardiff conceded just three goals in their five league games prior to last weekend’s hammering against Swansea. Perhaps that was just a blip.
- They lost eight consecutive second-tier games this term prior to former boss McCarthy’s sacking.
My lineup: Nyland, Rahman, Holmes, Morrison, Yiadom, Laurent, Drinkwater, Hoilett, Swift, Ince, Joao
He may have made a mistake in midweek - but Orjan Nyland has been reasonably fine other than that and remains in goal.
I’m still pushing for Baba Rahman to be at left-back in one of two changes from the Stoke match, although you can understand why Paul Ince may not want to rock the boat too much and keep Tom McIntyre on the left. The other three in the backline remain the same, even with Scott Dann available as an option on the bench.
In midfield, Danny Drinkwater was immense once again in midweek and is proving to be a real game-changer in this relegation battle. I just hope all the fans get behind him this afternoon because he’s putting in a real shift. Josh Laurent is the man to take his place alongside him.
Another change on the left comes with Junior Hoilett moving to that side, replacing Ovie Ejaria who was poor in the week and allowing Tom Ince to reclaim the right-wing spot.
And up top, it has to be Lucas Joao once again. You certainly wouldn’t bet against him getting on the scoresheet.
Score Prediction: Reading 2-0 Cardiff City
Other Championship Fixtures
All fixtures get underway on Saturday 9th April (3pm KO) unless stated:
Sheffield United vs AFC Bournemouth (12:45pm KO)
Blackburn Rovers vs Blackpool
Bristol City vs Peterborough United
Middlesbrough vs Hull City
Millwall vs Barnsley
Nottingham Forest vs Birmingham City
Preston North End vs Queens Park Rangers
Swansea City vs Derby County
West Bromwich Albion vs Stoke City
Fulham vs Coventry City (Sunday 10th April; 3pm KO)
Huddersfield Town vs Luton Town (Monday 11th April; 7:45pm KO)