Reading will be desperate to bounce back from their humiliating FA Cup loss against sixth-tier outfit Kidderminster Harriers at the weekend, as they take on automatic promotion candidates Fulham this evening.
Returning to the Select Car Leasing Stadium for this clash, the home advantage could prove to be either a blessing or a curse for the Royals who will need their supporters’ backing tonight, though the atmosphere surrounding the club’s fanbase may make this return a dreaded one.
Fielding a much-changed side in Worcestershire at the weekend, the likes of Andy Carroll and Scott Dann will be fresh as they go into what will be a tough game against Marco Silva’s side, despite this evening’s visitors failing to win any of their last five league matches.
Quiz: Can you name which club Reading FC signed these 28 midfielders from?
The Royals haven’t fared much better though, going winless in their previous four competitive matches and are currently hovering dangerously above the drop zone with just three points separating them and 22nd-placed Peterborough United at this stage.
With Derby County seemingly on the rise too, Veljko Paunovic’s men will be desperate to win all three points to alleviate pressure off themselves and their manager who could be in real danger of losing his job unless results improve.
But who will be trusted to bring home a point or three for the Berkshire outfit tonight? We have predicted the potential lineup Paunovic may go with tonight.
In goal, Rafael Cabral made costly errors at the weekend and didn’t do himself any favours in terms of regaining the number one goalkeeping jersey, so Luke Southwood comes in to start despite his own error against Derby last Monday.
Baba Rahman and Andy Yiadom’s inclusions at the African Cup of Nations presents a real problem for the Royals’ boss, who may decide to switch to a back three to reduce the defensive responsibilities youngster Tyrell Ashcroft has to take on.
If he’s cleared to play, following a vision problem against the Rams, he is likely to start again with another wide option in Junior Hoilett dropping slightly deeper on the left-hand side to take up a wing-back role.
Scott Dann, Tom Holmes and Josh Laurent all start at centre-back with the latter coming on at half-time at Kidderminster to take his place in the backline – and this could potentially help to tighten up a defence that can’t buy a clean sheet at the moment.
In midfield, Tom Dele-Bashiru is probably lucky to remain in the starting lineup after failing to impose himself on the game at the weekend – but one man that isn’t so lucky is Danny Drinkwater who was particularly poor and should probably remain on the bench in favour of Andy Rinomhota who made his long-awaited return last Saturday.
His inclusion depends on whether he’s fit enough to play a full 90 minutes though.
John Swift also returns – but needs to do more after going quiet in recent games. He could be crucial to the home side’s cause tonight and after a reasonably bright first-half display against Derby, he’s certainly one to look out for.
The three in midfield leaves Paunovic able to play two up top – and in a potential last roll of the dice – he may place his faith in Jahmari Clarke to be an effective attacking partner to ex-England international Andy Carroll.
Having two physical players up top may cause the Cottagers real problems, so this is definitely an option for the Berkshire club to think about as they remain desperate to get three points on the board.
This selection may be unorthodox – but that’s what may be needed to save his job – clearly needing to change things up after seeing his 4-2-3-1 system fail at the weekend.