Reading manager Veljko Paunovic is hoping to have Ovie Ejaria, John Swift and Lucas Joao all back in time for their next Championship match against Preston North End on Saturday, as he spoke to Berkshire Live.
The latter two started against Stoke City in their 3-2 loss last weekend, but both sustained injuries during the game and tomorrow night’s Carabao Cup tie against Swansea City could come too early for the duo.
Joao dislocated his shoulder in the first half and from then on, didn’t have any real impact on the game despite being able to carry on before being withdrawn in the 77th minute for George Puscas.
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This is the third time the Portuguese forward has suffered this injury in the last 12 months – but manager Paunovic is optimistic about a quick return for the Royals’ key striker.
The Serbian said: “I don’t think it’s going to be that bad – his (Joao) shoulder went back in but it’s recurrent as it’s the third time now so it’s something we have to have on our mind for every game.
“We’ll work to strengthen his shoulder and prevent this kind of injury happening again because the season has only just started.”
Meanwhile, Swift, who had a much brighter game as he grabbed himself a goal and an assist at the bet365 Stadium, suffered from cramp and was taken off with Joao at the same time to remove the risk of a more serious injury.
He is set to be the second key midfield absentee for tomorrow’s cup game against Russell Martin’s side, with Ovie Ejaria even missing the Berkshire side’s opening league game as he recovers from a minor groin injury.
However, the Royals’ boss is also hopeful of a quick return for the 23-year-old – and that may come as quickly as Saturday afternoon.
Paunovic continued: “Ovie felt an impeachment in his groin against Crystal Palace (the previous Saturday).
“He was meant to play 90 minutes in that game to improve his game fitness but unfortunately, when we assessed him at half time we gave him 10 minutes more in the second half before pulling him out of the game.
“He didn’t recover for this game against Stoke but hopefully he will be ready for the next one.”
Yakou Meite and Felipe Araruna look to be longer-term absentees, with the former set to be out for the majority of the season with an anterior cruciate ligament injury and the latter not expected to be back until next month after his knee surgery, spending much of his time at the Select Car Leasing Stadium on the sidelines.
With the lack of squad depth the Royals already have, the last thing they need right now is more injuries.
The club’s transfer embargo means they are currently unable to get any players through the door and with six senior first-team members leaving in the summer, the gaps in the Championship side’s team are really starting to show.
Veljko Paunovic is without a senior left-back at the club and with Ejaria and Meite also out, they have no first-team wingers they can rely on. To combat this, the Serbian opted to play five at the back without the need for advanced wide men, but a few more injuries could put them in serious trouble.
Thankfully for the Royals, these injuries aren’t long term. But instead, it’s a frightening reminder of the lack of senior heads they have in the squad and to avoid the risk of more injuries, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see the club’s Under-23s take on Swansea tomorrow evening.
It may cost them their place in the Carabao Cup, but it will be worth it if he can keep their key players fit over the coming weeks and months.