Birmingham City manager Lee Bowyer has namechecked John Swift, Ovie Ejaria, George Puscas and Scott Dann as four Reading players the Blues will need to keep an eye on when the two sides meet tomorrow afternoon, speaking to Birmingham Live.
Swift, 26, is one player the Royals have heavily relied on this term, with the midfielder recording eight goals and six assists in 16 league matches so far during 2021/22 and making a real impact after spending the majority of last season out with injury problems.
With his contract at the Select Car Leasing Stadium running out next summer, several Premier League sides including Burnley, Crystal Palace, Norwich City and Wolverhampton Wanderers all interested in luring him to the top flight and looks set to make the step up with fresh terms yet to be agreed on a contract extension in Berkshire.
Quiz: 30 questions about some of Reading FC’s best ever players – Can you score 100% correct?
Former Liverpool man Ejaria is the Royals’ other main source of creativity in Alen Halilovic’s absence, showing his worth at Craven Cottage against Fulham earlier in the season with a brace and providing to be difficult for right-backs to deal with.
One name who many Reading fans were potentially surprised to hear come out of Bowyer’s mouth as a threat is striker George Puscas, who is yet to score a goal in 16 league displays this term.
But he was labelled as a ‘good striker’ by Bowyer who is wary of his capabilities, also mentioning summer signing Scott Dann as he said: “It [Saturday] will be a tough game, same as last year when I first came.
“They have got good players, quality all over the pitch, strong in the middle, [John] Swift and [Ovie] Ejaria off the top of my head are the two that stand out for me.
“[George] Puscas is a good striker, Scott [Dann] obviously – someone I know well – at the centre of their defence.
“They have got good players and it is going to be tough. No matter who is playing for us as long as we keep that mindset and togetherness on the pitch we can win the game.”
Bowyer is right to pick out Puscas as a threat, because the Romanian has shown what he can do in the past and looking at his drought in front of goal, you have to say he’s due a goal soon. After having one disallowed in midweek against Millwall for offside, it would be no surprise to see him come close again.
Swift and Ejaria are the two men who are almost guaranteed to start behind the forward – and the key to a Birmingham victory will be keeping the creative pair quiet.
If they can do that, one goal should be enough to secure a win and considering they have the likes of Troy Deeney, Chuks Aneke, Scott Hogan and Lukas Jutkiewicz at their disposal, they should be able to get past a leaky Royals defence.
Considering the two sides are in different stages of their respective campaigns, with the Blues on the rise after a tricky spell and tomorrow’s away side decline after almost reaching the top six last month, Bowyer’s men will be the heavy favourites to come out on top in this one.
But the nature of the Championship never ceases to amaze us. With Blackburn losing 7-0 to Fulham in midweek, Rovers beating Reading and Veljko Paunovic’s men winning 2-1 against the Cottagers earlier in the season, this is the type of game that the Berkshire outfit would win.
Keep your eyes peeled on this match – because it looks set to be a fascinating tie.