Reading FC v AFC Bournemouth-Preview

Reading now have only four days to wait until they face Arsenal at Wembley in the FA Cup Semi-Finals. Steve Clarke will most certainly have this in mind coming into tonight’s Championship match. Though facing the league leaders at any point in the season would make for a tough game, facing AFC Bournemouth days before an important cup game is less than ideal. 

With Saturday’s game in mind, Clarke is expected to shuffle things around and start a team similar to the one he put out in Reading’s 4-1 away defeat to Watford. Clarke was criticised for fielding a weaker team against one of the promotion candidates last time out, and will probably face the same criticism this time around as well. With a cup game only days away against a side who have won eight Premiership matches in a row, it would be a wise decision by Clarke to save some players for Saturday. 

In form players in the Reading ranks such as Jamie Mackie, Pavel Pogrebnyak, Nathaniel Chalobah and Michael Hector are all expected to sit out the game, with the likes of Jake Cooper, Oliver Norwood, Yakubu and Kwesi Appiah likely to start in their place. Danny Williams has been recovering from injury and absent from the recent lineups, so it is unlikely he would be risked prior to the weekend. Nathan Ake will be cup-tied for Saturday, along with Appiah, so is likely to feature against the Cherries.

AFC Bournemouth, meanwhile, are expected to field a full strength team as their chase for the title continues. Matt Ritchie will be given a fitness test prior to the game following a shin injury, but is doubtful to make an appearance. Mark Pugh played for an hour against Brighton following an ankle injury, so may be fit to feature. Ryan Fraser is also available following illness. Top scorers Callum Wilson and Yann Kermorgant, on 21 and 16 goals respectively this season, are both set to start. 

“Steve Clarke has made them very strong, very tough to beat and very organised as you would expect. He is an excellent coach and they are very tough to beat so we are going to be patient, show our quality and show real mental strength.”AFC Bournemouth Manager Eddie Howe

The two sides are currently experiencing different periods of form, with the Cherries justifying their league position following a great run of results. Unbeaten in their last nine games, having won six, you have to go back to February to find their last defeat, away to Nottingham Forest. Specifically away from home, AFC Bournemouth are unbeaten in their last four, having won two. The Cherries cruised to victory in their last game, winning 2-0 against Brighton away from home. Goals came from their top scorers Wilson and Kermorgant, who have both appeared on the scoresheet in their last two matches.

Reading, meanwhile, are also justifying their league position with their poor run of results. The Royals have failed to win any of their last five games in the Championship, losing two. Their last league win was against Brighton at home back in March. That win is also Reading’s only win in their last six home Championship games. Reading’s last game was once again frustrating, with the match ending 0-0 against Blackburn. While on paper a point would have been a great outcome for the Royals, the dominating performance from Reading deserved all three. The Royals, however, are unbeaten in their last three matches having drawn them all.

“Bournemouth are everybody’s favourites for promotion so it’ll be a tough game.”Reading Manager Steve Clarke

When the two sides met earlier this season at the Goldsands Stadium, the Cherries came away with the victory. The game finished 3-0, courtesy of a Wilson goal and a Pitman brace in the second-half. The statistics regarding previous head-to-heads between the two sides do not bode well for the Royals either. The Cherries are unbeaten in the last six meetings between the sides, winning four. They are also unbeaten in the last three meetings at the Madejski Stadium. 

Clarke’s lineup at the current time is somewhat unpredictable, so it is difficult to know how this one could end up. Considering the current form of the Cherries, however, it is likely that they will continue their run with another victory against the Royals this season. With some changes inevitably being made by Clarke, it does however give some players the chance to impress enough to book a place in the squad for Saturday. 


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