Reading will be looking to build on their comeback against Watford with a point or three in Wearside as they prepare to face Sunderland.
Tony Mowbray’s side were in FA Cup action in midweek and that may be an advantage for the Royals - but this is one of their longest away trips of the season and they will be reluctant to come away from the Stadium of Light without at least a point under their belts.
However, with the Black Cats performing well in midweek and adapting to the Championship extremely well, they are probably the favourites coming into this clash.
A win for Paul Ince’s side would take them a big step closer to securing survival though - something that has to be their main goal considering the adversity they have faced this season. Their form on the road hasn’t been brilliant during 2022/23 - and they will be desperate to secure a rare away victory to reward their travelling supporters.
Can they clinch three points though? We’ll have to wait and see.
For now, here’s everything you need to know ahead of kick-off.
What? Championship Matchday 30
Where? Stadium of Light
When? Saturday 11th February
Opposition Manager? Tony Mowbray
The absence of Ross Stewart is a major blow for the Black Cats - but the board should have addressed this issue during the January transfer window. Even without Ellis Simms’ departure and Stewart’s injury setback, it was clear they needed to add more strikers to their squad and the fact they only brought in one was a real shame. This is one reason why Kyril Louis-Dreyfus and other key figures at the Stadium of Light can’t complain if they miss out on the play-offs now.
In fairness, they do have some good ingredients at their disposal though and seem to be on the up, something that will give their supporters plenty of confidence for the next couple of years. Whether Mowbray is the man to take them forward for the long term remains to be seen - but he has a good track record for developing youngsters and that could pay dividends for the Wearside outfit considering some of the players they have at their disposal.
It wouldn’t be a surprise if they ended up in the Premier League in the next few seasons - but they will need to continue being smart with their money if they want to compete with those who come down from the top flight. Burnley’s brilliance emphasises the hard task they have on their hands in their quest to get back to the top level.
Getting to the 50-point mark is all that matters now - and that’s something we’ve said for a while. However, it would be nice for us if we were able to take the handbrake off a bit because we don’t really have anything to lose this afternoon.
I would take a 0-0 draw over a 3-0 loss - but we’re the underdogs in this game anyway and that’s why we need to try and put the Black Cats’ defence under a bit of pressure. With the likes of Nesta Guinness-Walker and Femi Azeez at our disposal, that’s something we can do.
Getting ourselves on the front foot ahead of some important games against teams in the lower half of the division has to be at the top of the agenda.
The injury situation doesn’t look great though and that isn’t promising ahead of this game - but we can only hope that most of our key players are available. If Tom Ince and Tom Holmes are in the starting lineup, that’ll give us a little bit of hope with the former being our main man this term and the latter performing excellently at times, showing us why he was rewarded with a new contract last summer.
The Last Meeting
Reading 0-3 Sunderland
I have to admit I was rubbing my hands together when Simms went off - but the Black Cats were exceptional following his withdrawal. It was one of the best away performances I’ve seen for a while - but we performed very poorly.
Starting XI: Lumley, Rahman, McIntyre, Mbengue, Yiadom, Fornah, Ince, Casadei, Guinness-Walker, Azeez, Long
As I’m not the one who gets it in the neck if things go wrong, I thought I’d experiment with the starting lineup and go with a back four.
It’s perhaps foolish to do so considering we’ve become accustomed to a back five - but having a bit of threat out wide with Nesta Guinness-Walker and Femi Azeez should serve us well.
Yakou Meite could also start - but Azeez did well enough against Watford to start this weekend - with the Frenchman potentially able to make an impact during the latter stages of the game.
In terms of the defence, Joe Lumley starts again with Amadou Mbengue and Andy Yiadom lining up on the right side. I’m reluctant to include Baba Rahman and Tom McIntyre but the former is probably our most experienced full-back and we shouldn’t be risking Holmes if he isn’t fit.
Tyrese Fornah sits in front of the back four, with Ince and Cesare Casadei potentially able to push forward and support the attack. Jeff Hendrick could potentially be included at the expense of Casadei - but it’d be good to see the latter a bit more.
Up top, either Shane Long or Lucas Joao should start but with the latter a doubt, the former could potentially be in the first 11 once again.
I do like a back three - but trying something different could help to unsettle today’s home side who will be expecting the Royals to line up with a defensive five. I’m not sure anything will stop Mowbray’s side from claiming a win though.
Score Prediction: Sunderland 1-0 Reading
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