Reading will be looking to claim nine home points from nine this afternoon as they take on Middlesbrough, who haven’t made the best start to the season.
Chris Wilder’s side are still likely to be in and around the promotion mix during the latter stages of this term, but still have a considerable amount of work to do in the transfer market in their quest to fire themselves back to the Premier League.
Does this make it a good time to face Boro? There’s no good time to come up against such a formidable opponent - but the Royals will certainly be looking to take full advantage of having the home crowd behind them at 3pm.
Ahead of kick-off, we have some facts and thoughts for you!
What? Championship Matchday 5
Where? Select Car Leasing Stadium
When? Saturday 20th August 2022
Opposition Manager? Chris Wilder
If I’m being honest, I’m finding it hard to stay level-headed at this stage considering the contrasting results we’ve had. Blackpool brought frustration, Cardiff was a relief, Rotherham was an embarrassment and Blackburn was a night when we could really be proud of these players.
They showed real character to respond in the manner they did - and they did two things they don’t usually do. Firstly, they weren’t overly reliant on the goalkeeper and that was important after last weekend, though Joe Lumley’s save in the second half was a magnificent one. And secondly, they actually killed the game off, something they haven’t done during a competitive match for some time.
The third thing they haven’t shown in recent times is consistency - and that’s the next thing they need to tick off their list in their quest to remain afloat in the Championship once more. Momentum can only be built if they put in another good performance today - and they will certainly have the backing of the home supporters following such a promising midweek display against Jon Dahl Tomasson’s side.
The performance is important - but I’m praying for another point or three today. At the end of the day, points are the only thing that matter in our potential battle against relegation.
Wilder’s side have conducted some impressive business during the summer window, revamping their goalkeeping department, recruiting the exciting Ryan Giles, poaching Darragh Lenihan who could be a real asset in defence, bringing in a much-needed backup option for Isaiah Jones and loaning in Alex Mowatt who could potentially turn out to be a very underrated signing if he can replicate his form from the 2020/21 season.
They are also in the process of rebuilding their forward department - and there’s still plenty of work to be done to give themselves a great chance of challenging for automatic promotion.
Another striker does need to come in to provide a bit of extra quality up top, as well as another midfielder to provide depth and a central defender to provide more balance in their back three.
Thankfully for them, they have some of the money generated from the sales of Djed Spence and Marcus Tavernier to utilise - and have also managed to offload some of those that were deemed surplus to requirements in recent months so that gives them slightly more room to manoeuvre.
Their start hasn’t been the best - but it’s certainly a time for Boro fans to be excited with the club in a great position to push towards the top end of the table.
Opposition Player I’d Like: Ryan Giles
Again, if you want realism, this section isn’t for you!
There are so many players I could’ve gone for. Lenihan or Dael Fry could provide solidity, Jones would be an excellent asset to have on the right-hand side and Matt Crooks would provide some much-needed attacking firepower from midfield.
But considering our current situation, I’d love to have Giles at left wing-back to provide more of an attacking threat down the left-hand side, with the Wolves man recording 10 assists last season.
Nesta Guinness-Walker performed superbly on Wednesday but more depth is required in this area and this is where Giles could come in and allow us to focus on strengthening in other areas.
Also able to play in an attacking midfield role and on the wing, he could even cover two positions for the Royals, though he would probably be a starter at wing-back at this stage despite some promising displays from NGW.
Here’s how he could fit in:
The Last Meeting
Middlesbrough 2-1 Reading (or Liam Moore Day, as it’s officially known)
Starting XI: Bouzanis, Guinness-Walker, McIntyre, Holmes, Yiadom, Hoilett, Fornah, Loum, Hendrick, Ince, Long
With Lumley potentially not eligible to start against his parent club, Dean Bouzanis gets the nod between the sticks with Jokull Andresson on the bench and the Australian will be keen to perform well to stake his claim for a starting spot in Berkshire.
The back five also remains the same with Naby Sarr (as of Friday afternoon) not coming in yet and the likes of Sam Hutchinson and Scott Dann unlikely to be starters even if they do make the matchday squad today. Tom McIntyre, Tom Holmes and Andy Yiadom all played well in central defence in midweek - and will be hoping to put in a similar shift today.
Guinness-Walker also put in a real shift and he remains on the left-hand side with Junior Hoilett on the right.
In midfield, Jeff Hendrick was probably the only player that didn’t shine against Blackburn but he gets another chance to prove his worth alongside Tyrese Fornah and Mamadou Loum, both of whom were excellent against Tomasson’s side.
Tom Ince’s energy will also be required and he lines up behind Shane Long, who has performed better than many people expected, including me.
Score Prediction: Reading 1-1 Middlesbrough
My predictions for this round of Championship fixtures:
Birmingham City 2-1 Wigan Athletic
Burnley 2-0 Blackpool
Preston North End 0-1 Watford
QPR 2-0 Rotherham United
Sheffield United 2-0 Blackburn Rovers
Stoke City 1-2 Sunderland
Swansea 2-2 Luton Town
West Brom 2-1 Hull City
Bristol City 3-2 Cardiff City