Reading face a long away trip as they take on Rotherham United this afternoon, looking to build on what was an important victory over Cardiff City last weekend.
Although the Stevenage loss has put a slight dampener on things, Tuesday night was a good opportunity to see some of the academy players in action, with Mamadi Camara standing out as someone who could be a useful asset to the first-team squad at this time. Mamadou Loum also looked the part - and he’s in line to play once more with the Senegalese midfielder finally managing to get a work visa.
With so many injuries though, today’s test in South Yorkshire won’t be an easy one and looking ahead to 3pm, we have the information you need to know.
What? Championship Matchday 3
Who? Rotherham United
Where? AESSEAL New York Stadium
When? Saturday 13th August 2022
Opposition Manager? Paul Warne
Pre-season wasn’t exactly easy for the Millers with manager Warne losing two of his most valuable assets in Michael Ihiekwe and Michael Smith, both of whom decided to drop down to League One again with Sheffield Wednesday.
They have managed to conduct some smart incoming business though, with the likes of Lee Peltier and Tom Eaves likely to be decent assets to have at this level. The former could end up providing real solidity at the back and that will be important considering the firepower they lost when Smith went to Hillsborough and Freddie Ladapo sealed his switch to Ipswich Town, with Ihiekwe’s departure a real blow too.
More quality may be needed between now and the end of the summer transfer window if they want to give themselves the best possible chance of remaining afloat in the division - because they had the services of Matt Crooks during their last second-tier campaign but no longer have him at their disposal following his move to Middlesbrough last summer.
He was a fantastic goalscoring asset to have from midfield - but they will now be relying on others to step up to the plate - with Daniel Barlaser and Ben Wiles two players to keep an eye on. They helped to fill the void Crooks created following his departure.
At full strength, the Royals would have fancied their chances of picking up a point or three this afternoon, especially with a player like Lucas Joao up top.
However, as Paul Ince would say, we are down to the bare bones at this stage and that’s a blow during a period of the season where we need to pick up as many points as possible. Getting off to a good start would help to boost players’ confidence and that will be important considering the struggles of last season and the gloomy predictions from pundits before the start of this term.
Looking at the state of play regarding transfers, we arguably need four more players in the door to give ourselves the best chance of recording a respectable league finish, with Naby Sarr one of those. Another left wing-back will also be essential and it’s good to hear we have a deal lined up. Hopefully that one will be wrapped up sooner rather than later - but we’ll see what happens!
A forward-thinking midfielder would be useful as well - potentially someone like Jeff Hendrick who can play in the ten role but can also sit deeper. If Omari Hutchinson comes in though, I wouldn’t have any complaints, though it remains to be seen whether Ince would want six loanees in his first-team squad. Considering we can only have five in a matchday squad, it would be a risk, but our injury record and lack of room on the wage bill means it may be a risk worth taking if Chelsea are willing to pay 100% of the youngster’s wages. With game time not guaranteed though, the Blues may be reluctant to do this.
And our fourth and final arrival should be a striker if we can get one in. It would be difficult to see George Puscas not leaving between now and the end of the window considering the amount of reported interest there is and if he goes, you hope there would be the funds to get Sarr and one or two others in, depending what percentage of his wage we’re still paying if/when he goes.
Getting four players in could be very tricky if only Puscas goes. However, it depends how far Sarr’s proposed salary has taken us over the limit. If it’s literally by £1,000 per week, Hutchinson’s wages could possibly be paid in full by his parent club and we could potentially bring in another one or two after that, looking at this situation from a very optimistic angle.
Again, it depends what salary Puscas is on and what percentage of it a loan club are willing to take on.
Opposition Player I’d Like: Ben Wiles
Recording eight goals and seven assists during the 2021/22 campaign, he could be the goalscoring midfielder needed to replace John Swift, who we will miss this afternoon with Ovie Ejaria out of action.
The midfielder is also a very versatile player and that attribute could be particularly useful at this stage considering the number of injuries we have at the moment, though he would probably start in an advanced midfield role if he was playing for us today.
And at 23, there’s a chance we could have sold him on for a considerable amount in the future, helping to balance the books and potentially providing Paul Ince with a bit of money to spend when we aren’t under restrictions!
Here’s where I’d have him in the starting lineup:
The Last Meeting
Rotherham United 0-1 Reading
Starting XI: Lumley, Guinness-Walker, McIntyre, Holmes, Yiadom, Hoilett, Loum, Hendrick, Camara, Ince, Long
Joe Lumley performed well again last weekend and deserves to keep his place in goal, with Dean Bouzanis not doing anything outstanding to replace him.
The same back five also continues with none of the injured players returning yet, though it would be good to see one of Sarr, Sam Hutchinson or Scott Dann come in at some point so Andy Yiadom can operate on the right-hand side.
In fairness to the Ghanaian, he has done an excellent job as a right centre-back - but should be given the freedom to get forward even more and will probably be able to return to a more natural position when one or two of the injured players return.
If Mamadou Loum is fit enough to play 90 minutes, he should start again, although I wouldn’t be too upset to see Tyrese Fornah play alongside Jeff Hendrick if the new signing isn’t ready to play the whole game.
Mamadi Camara has to replace Ovie Ejaria following an impressive cameo in midweek - and should have plenty of energy in the tank considering he only came on as a substitute.
There are no real surprises elsewhere with Tom Ince starting in an advanced midfield role again with Shane Long up top.
Both were impressive against the Bluebirds - but I still have trust issues with this club from last season! That’s why I’ve gone with a 1-0 defeat - but let’s hope for a positive result.
Score Prediction: Rotherham United 1-0 Reading
My predictions for this round of Championship fixtures:
Cardiff City 1-2 Birmingham City
Blackpool 0-2 Swansea City
Huddersfield Town 1-2 Stoke City
Hull City 1-1 Norwich City
Luton Town 2-0 Preston North End
Millwall 2-1 Coventry City
Sunderland 2-0 Queens Park Rangers
Wigan Athletic 0-2 Bristol City
Middlesbrough 2-2 Sheffield United
Blackburn Rovers 1-2 West Bromwich Albion