Reading make the long trip up north this weekend as they face high-flyers Middlesbrough, who will be desperate to bounce back from their defeat against West Bromwich Albion last Saturday.
An early Daryl Dike brace consigned Boro to a disappointing away loss, though they may not be too disheartened by this result considering the form that the Baggies have been in since the appointment of Carlos Corberan. They have a good chance to bounce back today though - and will be firm favourites to secure all three points from this clash against a side that have been awful on the road this term.
Can Paul Ince’s men cause a shock this afternoon though? Let’s wait and see.
Ahead of kick-off at the Riverside, we have some facts and thoughts!
What? Championship Matchday 34
Where? Select Car Leasing Stadium
When? Saturday 4th March
Opposition Manager? Michael Carrick
Boro are in a much better situation than they were in during the reverse fixture, not just because they were struggling under Chris Wilder at the time but also because everyone seems to be pulling in the same direction now. That didn’t seem to be the case previously - but the club have hired Michael Carrick who fits into their structure and is doing extremely well at the moment.
In terms of their January window, they did reasonably well with Cameron Archer, Dan Barlaser and Aaron Ramsey coming in. Hayden Hackney has stepped up well this season and that’s perhaps why a long-term replacement for Jonny Howson wasn’t recruited along with Barlaser last month - but that’s an area they will probably want to look at again in the summer.
At the moment, they look pretty strong in all positions, though they will need to be preparing for the summer already considering the number of loanees that are set to go back to their parent clubs at the end of the season. They will need to create multiple transfer plans though - because it’s currently unclear which division they will be in next term.
Ugh. We were set to enjoy a relaxing week following last Saturday’s win against Blackpool - but that went out of the window on Wednesday!
In terms of our likely points deduction, we’ll have to see which rule(s) we breached and how badly we breached it/them. Attacking either the EFL or the club may be a little premature at this stage until we know the full details, so we’ll just have to stay patient until we know more. It’s frustrating - but is there anything we can do at this point?
Being punished for a historical rule breach would be annoying but if it’s in the rule book, we can’t really have many complaints. What we can’t afford to do is fully blame the EFL and not take a look at the key figures who mismanaged our finances.
There’s no hope of us being sold at the moment considering we aren’t an attractive asset - but that shouldn’t stop us criticising the likes of Dai Yongge and Dayong Pang when they’re at fault. We can’t be scared to point out things they’ve done wrong.
The Last Meeting
Reading 1-0 Middlesbrough
Starting XI: Bouzanis, Guinness-Walker, Sarr, Mbengue, Yiadom, Fornah, Ince, Casadei, Azeez, Long, Meite
With Joe Lumley ineligible for this game, Dean Bouzanis comes in, with Andy Yiadom also returning to the starting lineup along with Nesta Guinness-Walker.
It’s hard to take Jeff Hendrick out but having someone like Tyrese Fornah to shield the defence could be useful, with the Nottingham Forest man sitting just behind Tom Ince and Cesare Casadei.
Femi Azeez replaces Junior Hoilett - and Yakou Meite starts again with Shane Long up top.
Score Prediction: Middlesbrough 2-0 Reading
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Sunderland 2-0 Stoke City
Watford 2-1 Preston North End
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