Reading start their Carabao Cup adventure this evening as they take on League Two outfit Stevenage, who will be hoping to cause an upset at the Select Car Leasing Stadium.
Tonight provides a real dilemma for manager Paul Ince in terms of his team selection, with the Royals expected to win but arguably needing to rest some of their key players with several first-teamers already injured. A loss tonight wouldn’t exactly benefit their morale though, but former England international Ince does have some credit in the bank following last weekend’s victory against Cardiff City.
It remains to be seen how many players, if any, that started against the Bluebirds will be in the first 11 once again this evening.
Looking ahead to this fixture, here are some thoughts!
What? Carabao Cup Round 1
Where? Select Car Leasing Stadium
When? Tuesday 9th August 2022
Opposition Manager? Steve Evans
Getting through this game without further injuries would be ideal - and with that risk - we should be looking to rest as many first-team players as possible.
It would be silly to throw vital first-teamers like Andy Yiadom in when there’s little point in playing them - because a win against Rotherham United on Saturday is far more important than whatever happens tonight.
And surely things can’t be any worse than Kidderminster? That was a humiliating day - but I have faith in some of our younger players to do a much better job this evening with several potentially being given an opportunity to impress Ince Sr. I’m excited!
The Last Meeting
Reading 3-0 Stevenage
Starting XI: Bouzanis; Clarke, Stickland, Holzman, Holmes, Abrefa; Loum, Leavy; Camara; Ehibhatiomhan, Melvin-Lambert
It will be interesting to see what formation Ince goes with - but retaining a back three to maintain some form of consistency would be ideal.
In goal, Dean Bouzanis gets his chance to stake a claim for a regular starting spot, though he will have to do something remarkable this evening with Joe Lumley performing well in his last two games. Jokull Andresson should be on the bench.
At wing-back, John Clarke should get the chance to prove his worth after performing extremely well against West Ham United in pre-season. He started at centre-back that day - but should have the license to get forward in this tie. Kelvin Abrefa replaces Junior Hoilett on the right.
In central defence, one of Tom Holmes or Tom McIntyre will probably need to play and it’s the former that gets a chance to lead a young team with Louie Holzman and Michael Stickland starting alongside him. McIntyre could potentially replace Holmes at half-time though.
As I write this on Monday, it’s currently unclear whether Mamadou Loum has his visa sorted yet but if he’s available, he should probably get the opportunity to get some minutes in his legs alongside Kian Leavy, another youngster who performed admirably against West Ham last month. He could be needed in the first team this season, so giving him the chance to shine would be wise.
It would also be wise for Ince to give Mamadi Camara a start if he’s fit - because he’s probably one of the brighter prospects in the academy at this stage and it was a real boost to see him put pen to paper on a fresh deal this summer.
To give Ovie Ejaria and Tom Ince the night off, it may be a good idea to switch to a 3-4-1-2 system, with the likes of Kelvin Ehibhatiomhan, Nahum Melvin-Lambert and Jahmari Clarke all able to contribute.
It would be interesting to see how Melvin-Lambert performs because he looked decent against Luton in the FA Cup but has rarely been seen since. Ehibhatiomhan also looked bright at the weekend with some fancy footwork.
In terms of a score prediction, it’s a tough one because this could be a close game if a lot of the youngsters are playing. I’ll go with a 2-1 victory though!
Score Prediction: Reading 2-1 Stevenage
Here are some predictions for the Carabao Cup ties including Championship teams:
Blackpool 3-1 Barrow
Bradford City 0-2 Hull City
Fleetwood Town 0-1 Wigan Athletic
Huddersfield Town 1-1 (3-4 pens) Preston North End
Morecambe 1-3 Stoke City
Cardiff City 2-0 Portsmouth
Charlton Athletic 1-2 Queens Park Rangers
Luton Town 3-1 Newport County
Norwich City 2-1 Birmingham City
Oxford United 1-0 Swansea City
Blackburn Rovers 4-1 Hartlepool United
Middlesbrough 2-0 Barnsley
Port Vale 0-1 Rotherham United
Sheffield Wednesday 2-1 Sunderland
Coventry City 3-1 Bristol City
West Brom 1-2 Sheffield United