Reading return to the Select Car Leasing Stadium this evening as they face a high-flying Blackburn Rovers side, who will fancy their chances of winning three points.
Following Tony Mowbray’s departure, it was unclear whether they would be able to make a positive start to the season but it couldn’t have gone much better for them and manager Jon Dahl Tomasson, who will be delighted with his side’s opening three league games.
Paul Ince, on the other hand, will be desperate to see a response from his team following last weekend’s humiliation at Rotherham. Can they put in a much-improved shift tonight though? That remains to be seen.
For now, here’s what you need to know ahead of this clash.
What? Championship Matchday 4
Who? Blackburn Rovers
Where? Select Car Leasing Stadium
When? Wednesday 17th August 2022
Opposition Manager? Jon Dahl Tomasson
The anger on social media after Saturday’s game was understandable, even though we already know this looks set to be a very tough campaign. It wasn’t the defeat that caused this anger, it was the way we lost and it’s not the first time we’ve become the footballing laughing stock of the nation this year.
You can point your finger towards Joe Lumley - but many players just didn’t turn up at the weekend and that’s why we lost so heavily in the end. Rotherham could have easily scored more but in fairness to our defence, we weren’t exactly a real threat going forward either.
Injuries are hampering us at this stage - but that’s no excuse for that result and that scoreline - so hopefully the team can put it right tonight in front of a crowd who deserve a good performance.
In terms of transfers, it looks as though we’ll be waiting longer for Naby Sarr which is frustrating, but hopefully we can get another one or two players in quickly to add depth to certain areas and a bit of quality too.
The fact there has been a constant stream of rumours and signings in recent weeks/months is a key reason why there was so much optimism going into this season - and this is the first time where things have gone a bit quiet (writing this on Tuesday afternoon!). Let’s hope things explode into life in the coming days, though we may need to wait for someone to leave before we can bring anyone else in. It’s a very frustrating time.
It’s been the perfect start to the season for Rovers and although they may not have been completely dominant in all of their games, how clinical they’ve been in front of goal has been key to their recent success.
Ben Brereton-Diaz, Sam Gallagher and Lewis Travis have all been superb with their recent contributions - and you could easily see the latter stepping up and filling the void Joe Rothwell has created like Brereton-Diaz did last year when Adam Armstrong departed for Southampton.
Already having a decent number of young players who could develop into Premier League players in the future, they have complemented that with three decent additions. Sammie Szmodics could be a real goalscoring threat from midfield like Rothwell was, Callum Brittain will be an excellent replacement for Ryan Nyambe and Tyler Morton may also be a decent player to have in the middle of the park.
They do need to address their central defence though because Darragh Lenihan and Jan Paul van Hecke will be big misses for them - and they will sorely miss the duo throughout this campaign unless they strengthen in that area in the coming weeks.
Opposition Player I’d Like: Ben Brereton-Diaz
In Lucas Joao and Yakou Meite’s absence, having a prolific goalscorer would be nice and Chile international Brereton-Diaz has proven his worth once again in recent weeks.
Fair play to him because he didn’t exactly have the most successful start to life at Ewood Park and took time to settle in - but he stepped up extremely well in the absence of Armstrong and Harvey Elliott last season and played a big part in guiding Rovers to a respectable finish.
It wouldn’t be a surprise to see him move on to a Premier League side this summer with his contract expiring next year, though he may be better served staying put and waiting until next year to see what opportunities pop up.
He’s likely to get more offers when he’s available on a free transfer and if Rovers can continue to maximise their points return, there’s even a chance they will be in the top flight next term so a stay can’t be ruled out.
In terms of where he would fit in our team, I’ve played him as an attacking midfielder because he could be a real asset in this area:
The Last Meeting
Reading 1-0 Blackburn Rovers
Starting XI: Bouzanis, Guinness-Walker, McIntyre, Holmes, Yiadom, Hoilett, Loum, Hendrick, Ince, Ehibhatiomhan, Long
It’s a difficult one because Saturday was such a disappointment - but I still feel like the back three system is the right one for us - especially with Nesta Guinness-Walker probably needing a bit of extra protection.
In goal, Dean Bouzanis gets the chance to impress ahead of Saturday, when he may need to come in for Joe Lumley anyway.
As of Tuesday afternoon, Naby Sarr hasn’t signed and Sam Hutchinson isn’t likely to be available either, so the same back five remains. If everyone was fit/available, Sarr would probably come in for Tom McIntyre and Hutchinson or Scott Dann would replace Junior Hoilett, allowing Andy Yiadom to operate on the right-hand side.
Tyrese Fornah was probably one of our better performers last weekend - but Mamadou Loum was even better and this is why he starts alongside Jeff Hendrick - who may be a better asset in a deeper role.
Tom Ince also starts once more if he’s fit - but to shake things up - I’ll play two up top with Shane Long and Kelvin Ehibhatiomhan pairing up. It did feel as though the former would have benefitted from having a forward partner at Rotherham and with Blackburn yet to address their centre-back situation, having an extra striker may give Tomasson’s side something to think about.
Score Prediction: Reading 0-2 Blackburn Rovers
Here are my predictions for tonight’s Championship fixtures:
Stoke City 0-2 Middlesbrough
Sheffield United 2-0 Sunderland
West Bromwich Albion 3-1 Cardiff City