Reading will be looking to bounce back from last weekend’s poor second-half performance as they travel to Staffordshire to face Stoke City.
The Potters haven’t had a hugely successful season and that will come as a surprise to many considering how strong their squad is and the fact they have Alex Neil in charge. Neil managed to win promotion with Sunderland last season and did well with Norwich City in the past - but that will count for nothing at the bet365 Stadium unless he can turn things around quickly.
His current side will be expected to climb the Championship table sooner rather than later - can this afternoon be a turning point for them? That remains to be seen.
Ahead of kick-off, we have some facts and thoughts for you as usual!
What? Championship Matchday 28
Who? Stoke City
Where? bet365 Stadium
When? Saturday 21st January
Opposition Manager? Alex Neil
Michael O’Neill saw quite a few productive transfer windows during his time at Stoke - but results weren’t good enough under the Northern Irishman during the latter stages of his spell in Staffordshire. However, he seemed to tee Neil up nicely with O’Neill helping to build a decent squad (on paper) and that’s partly why the former’s struggles have been surprising.
The fact they brought in so many loanees during the previous window is a surprise though and it’s no real shock that not all of these signings have worked out for the best, with Liam Delap and Tarique Fosu ending their temporary spells early. It wouldn’t be a shock if Gavin Kilkenny left too because he hasn’t exactly been one of the first names on the teamsheet for the Potters since his arrival.
Major surgery isn’t needed this month though considering the quality they have in their squad, although it remains to be seen how much Neil will be able to strengthen his squad between now and the end of the window. The potential sale of Harry Souttar could have a big say on how much he will be able to spend.
Although the players also have to take responsibility for their second-half collapse last weekend, Paul Ince lost the Royals two points because of his decision to take Junior Hoilett off for Scott Dann. If Hoilett really needed to come off, Amadou Mbengue should have played at right wing-back because the back three didn’t need to be changed.
It may not be a great idea for Ince to admit when he’s in the wrong considering he’s the one who’s supposed to know what he’s doing - but taking responsibility is even more important and that’s something he needs to improve on. I would have far much more respect for him if he did take ownership of his mistakes and the majority of supporters would be more than forgiving considering how well we’ve done this season.
A more attacking lineup is needed this weekend because last Saturday’s team wasn’t great until Sam Hutchinson went off. And you just hope Ince is prepared to be a bit braver at the bet365 Stadium because there’s every chance we could score a couple of goals this afternoon. Stoke shouldn’t be underestimated - but it will be interesting to see how the hosts react if the Royals put them under a bit of pressure during the early stages of the game.
The Last Meeting
Reading 2-1 Stoke City
Starting XI: Lumley, Guinness-Walker, McIntyre, Holmes, Yiadom, Hoilett, Loum, Hendrick, Ince, Meite, Azeez
Joe Lumley starts between the sticks again - but there’s one change in central defence with Tom McIntyre coming in for Naby Sarr who hasn’t been great recently.
Nesta Guinness-Walker comes in for Baba Rahman too - but Junior Hoilett remains on the right to give the Royals a threatening attacking option on that side.
Jeff Hendrick, Mamadou Loum and Tom Ince get the chance to impress again - but the latter moves back into an advanced midfield role.
That will allow Femi Azeez and Yakou Meite to start up top, with the former perhaps unlucky not to be in the squad last weekend following a promising display against Watford.
Score Prediction: Stoke City 2-1 Reading
Here are my score predictions for this weekend’s Championship games:
Coventry City 1-3 Norwich City
Birmingham City 1-2 Preston North End
Blackpool 0-0 Huddersfield Town
Bristol City 2-1 Blackburn Rovers
Cardiff City 0-2 Millwall
Queens Park Rangers 2-1 Swansea City
Watford 3-0 Rotherham United
Wigan Athletic 0-2 Luton Town
Sunderland 2-2 Middlesbrough