Reading are back in Championship action today as they prepare to host promotion challengers Watford, who lost an FA Cup tie here earlier this month.
Considering Slaven Bilic’s side put out a weakened side and were suffering heavily with injuries at that point, that clash shouldn’t be used as encouragement for the Royals coming into this afternoon’s game.
The hosts will be desperate to respond to their humiliating 4-0 defeat against Stoke City - but that won’t be an easy task considering how strong the Hornets are on paper. And the latter will want to react to their own recent setback, suffering a 2-0 defeat against Middlesbrough last weekend and being overtaken by Michael Carrick’s side in the process
Who can come out with the three points today though? Or will there be nothing to separate the two teams?
We can’t answer those questions - but we do have some facts and thoughts for you ahead of 3pm!
What? Championship Matchday 29
Where? Select Car Leasing Stadium
When? Saturday 4th February
Opposition Manager? Slaven Bilic
Last weekend was fun but it’s time to get back to what’s important now - getting to the 50-point mark. Unfortunately, it’s difficult to see where our next points are going to come from if we continue to play like we have recently.
Paul Ince has to take responsibility as well as a few others who haven’t stepped up to the plate recently. It’s difficult to see why Baba Rahman is still starting at this stage, especially in a back five with the Ghanaian not offering a huge amount going forward.
If Nesta Guinness-Walker isn’t ready to start, then it may be a good idea to put Junior Hoilett on the left. In fairness to Rahman, he did create Hoilett’s chance at Old Trafford but he hasn’t done too much in the final third this season.
Others haven’t been great either - but it would be difficult to see Ince making too many changes from the 11 that started at Old Trafford. Andy Carroll won’t be available though and that’s disappointing considering his red card against the Red Devils was easily avoidable.
Losing at the Riverside isn’t something to be ashamed of because Boro have been excellent under former Manchester United midfielder Carrick during his time on Teesside so far.
However, that loss has dealt them a further blow in their quest to challenge Burnley and Sheffield United for an automatic promotion spot. Their task of catching the Blades looked difficult before their defeat on Teesside - but that assignment has become even harder since then and you have to wonder whether they should retain any hope of clinching a top-two place now.
On paper, they certainly have a squad that’s capable of finishing in the top six though and under a manager who has already won promotion from this division before, it would be a shock if they fell out of the promotion mix in the coming months.
The Last Meeting
Reading 2-0 Watford
Starting XI: Lumley, Hoilett, McIntyre, Holmes, Mbengue, Yiadom, Fornah, Casadei, Ince, Meite, Long
Joe Lumley starts in goal once again - but there is one change in central defence with last weekend’s goalscorer Amadou Mbengue replacing Rahman.
That allows Hoilett to switch to the left, with Andy Yiadom starting at right wing-back.
Cesare Casadei may also get a chance to impress - but he may start on the bench and it wouldn’t be a surprise to see Tyrese Fornah out of the matchday squad altogether. That would be a big shame because Fornah deserves the opportunity to impress.
Tom Ince starts in the advanced midfield position once again and with Carroll out, Yakou Meite and Shane Long start together up top.
Score Prediction: Reading 0-1 Watford
Here are my Championship predictions for this weekend:
Norwich City 2-1 Burnley
Rotherham United 2-3 Sheffield United
Huddersfield Town 2-2 Queens Park Rangers
Hull City 2-1 Cardiff City
Luton Town 1-1 Stoke City
Middlesbrough 3-1 Blackpool
Millwall 2-1 Sunderland
Preston North End 2-1 Bristol City
Swansea City 3-0 Birmingham City
Blackburn Rovers 2-0 Wigan Athletic