Reading will be looking to get themselves back on track this evening as they face another automatic promotion candidate, with Sheffield United making the trip to Berkshire.
Losing 4-0 at Bramall Lane in the reverse fixture, the Royals may not be full of confidence coming into this game but the pressure is on both sides to get a result and who can deal with that pressure the best may prove to be crucial tonight.
On paper, it looks like there’s only going to be one winner, but the hosts’ home form will provide them with a bit of hope and they need as much confidence as they can get if they want to give themselves the best chance of coming out on top.
Can the home team cause an upset? We’ll have to wait and see on that one.
For now, here are some facts and thoughts ahead of the game.
What? Championship Matchday 35
Who? Sheffield United
Where? Select Car Leasing Stadium
When? Tuesday 7th March
Opposition Manager? Paul Heckingbottom
Saturday was pretty bad - but hopefully we can put it behind us and produce some form of response tonight. We have responded extremely well to big setbacks before and this is why all hope shouldn’t be lost ahead of this evening - but this will be a very tough test and this is why it wouldn’t be a surprise if we don’t get anything from this game either.
Ideally, we’d get a point or three on the board with the points deduction potentially on the way and it’d give us a big boost going into another tough game on Saturday when we take on Millwall.
It’s just a shame we haven’t got Junior Hoilett for the foreseeable future because his versatility gives us the option to play a back three and a back four. In fairness, we can do it without him but he’s a very underrated player and will be sorely missed like Yakou Meite was when he was recovering from his cruciate ligament injury.
We are still capable of causing problems in the final third though, despite our weaknesses and Hoilett’s absence. Let’s fulfil our potential in this clash!
The automatic promotion race is hotting up - but the Blades can put themselves in pole position to secure second spot again by taking all three points from this game. This is their game in hand over Middlesbrough and they will be hoping to make full use of it after losing against Blackburn Rovers at the weekend.
Consistency will determine whether they end up in the top two or not - because Boro are unlikely to suffer a major loss in form between now and the end of the season with the depth they have. If one player isn’t performing, another can come in and in fairness, United also have different options they can utilise.
Sander Berge hasn’t been performing very well recently and with this in mind, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see Tommy Doyle come in alongside John Fleck and former Royal Oliver Norwood.
The Last Meeting
Sheffield United 4-0 Reading
Starting XI: Lumley, Guinness-Walker, Sarr, Holmes, Mbengue, Yiadom, Loum, Casadei, Azeez, Ince, Long
Joe Lumley returns between the sticks with Dean Bouzanis not exactly doing enough to retain his place - and it would be difficult to see the former not reclaim his place considering how good he has been this season.
I’ve gone with a back five in this one to give ourselves a chance of coping with the Blades’ attacking threat. Nesta Guinness-Walker and Tom Holmes come back in with both able to be real assets for the Royals when in top form.
Paul Ince should retain faith in Amadou Mbengue though and Naby Sarr starts ahead of Tom McIntyre, with Andy Yiadom completing the back five.
In midfield, it would be good to have a defensive player in there so Mamadou Loum returns, with Cesare Casadei having the opportunity to shine once more.
A 3-4-2-1 system allows both Tom Ince and Femi Azeez to start, with Shane Long getting a go up top. Meite doesn’t deserve to be dropped - but he is better out wide and may not have the chance to hug the touchline in this formation.
Score Prediction: Reading 1-2 Sheffield United
Here are my score predictions for tonight’s other Championship fixtures:
Huddersfield Town 1-1 Bristol City
West Brom 2-0 Wigan Athletic