Having played their last game only three days ago, Reading’s Championship fixtures are already coming in thick and fast. Their first home game of the season saw the Royals take a point against Leeds United in what can only be described as a poor game. The side will be hoping to do a little better on Wednesday evening when they take on Sheffield Wednesday at Hillsborough.
If last season’s results are anything to go by, neither team looks like a clear favourite. When the two sides met at Hillsborough the game ended 1-0 to the home side courtesy of a late deflected free kick from Stevie May. At the Madejski, however, Reading took all three points in a 2-0 win with goals coming from Pavel Pogrebnyak and Nathaniel Chalobah on his debut for the side.
What must be said is that both sides are much changed since then and as a result current form may be the better indicator. Reading have only taken a point from their opening two fixtures, having lost to Birmingham City on the opening day and drawn against Leeds at the weekend. Sheffield Wednesday are doing slightly better points wise, having won one and lost one so far. It is also worth mentioning that the Owls have lost only one of their last six matches at Hillsborough, having won two and drawn three. It will therefore be a tough place for the away side to come to.
On Tuesday, Reading announced their latest signing in the form of Alex Fernandez. The arrival of the Spaniard on loan follows only a few days after the side’s capture of Paolo Hurtado. While there is much anticipation surrounding the two new players amongst fans, fitness and international clearance issues mean that they will not be playing a part just yet.
“We do have creative players at the club. Once we get them in the team we will be better and stronger. We will have more options. We will be able to change the style of the game.”- Reading Manager Steve Clarke
As a result, the Royals will have to make do with a squad that is in a much weaker position than Steve Clarke would ideally like. Pavel Pogrebnyak and Garath McCleary both continue their lay-off through injury, something that Clarke has been particularly vocal about in the media this week. Youngster Tariqe Fosu has returned to training following his injury and even featured for the Under-21s on Monday.
With the absences taken into account, it is highly likely that the same squad that faced Leeds will be playing on Wednesday evening. Michael Hector and Aaron Tshibola will be two players that will particularly be in contention for a place in the starting line-up, but after the strong defensive performance last time out it isn’t guaranteed. Fosu may also play a part but after Clarke’s words about not putting too much pressure on him, he may choose to rest him for a little bit longer.
“The most important thing for me after the game on Saturday was that our players were not in the dressing room with their faces down, they had heads high because they gave everything and will react very quickly in front of our own fans at Hillsborough.” – Sheffield Wednesday Manager Carlos Carvalhal
Sheffield Wednesday, meanwhile, will be without their main keeper Keiren Westwood due to a kidney injury. Instead their teenage keeper Joe Wildsmith will be making his first league start for the club. This is news that will create optimism amongst a Reading side that has attempted more shots in their opening two games of the Championship season than any other side. There will also be late tests to Captain Glenn Loovens and Sam Hutchinson who both picked up knocks.
Reading’s main concern currently is finding the net. Statistics clearly suggest that they are creating opportunities for themselves, particularly away from home, and Nick Blackman’s goal against Birmingham on the opening day is evidence that they are capable of not only scoring but specifically scoring goals of an impressive nature. The arrival of the likes of Hurtado and Fernandez will also put an extra pressure on those already in the starting line-up to perform to a high standard. With a defence like Reading’s you feel that as soon as they begin to score goals, victories will start to come their way. No better time to start than at Wednesday on Wednesday!