“Barnsley are doing very well. They won their game on Tuesday night and looked impressive. They’ve had a couple of very good results so far this season but that’s what we’re looking to do as well.”– Reading Manager Jaap Stam
“Jaap has brought a real distinctive way of playing, really patient, trying to dominate the ball so we know we’ve got to be disciplined and patient in how we approach it. Again, we’re just trying to win the game. They’re going to pose different challenges and there will be challenges, definitely. It’s going to another tough test.”– Barnsley Manager Paul Heckingbottom
Next up for the Royals is a tougher prospect than they would have imagined at the start of the season. Newly promoted side Barnsley currently find themselves third in the Championship having won five of their seven games. As a result, the Tykes will be a difficult test for Reading at Oakwell on Saturday.
Tuesday’s game at the Madejski will not live long in the memory as Reading were held to a 0-0 draw against Birmingham. Despite dominating possession, the home side struggled to break through a resolute Blues defence and create any real chances. The injury suffered to Joey van den Berg in the warmup was a blow to the Royals and his continued absence is not ideal.
Barnsley, however, had a game to remember last time out as they recorded a 4-0 away win against Wolverhampton Wanderers. Despite not making the breakthrough until the 73rd minute, their goals were spread around the squad with Conor Hourihane, Adam Hammill, Saidy Janko and Tom Bradshaw all getting on the scoresheet.
This weekend, the two teams seem to be at opposite ends of the spectrum when it comes to scoring goals. Despite both conceding nine goals so far this season, Barnsley are the league’s top goalscorers on eighteen. Reading, meanwhile, find themselves near the bottom of the league when it comes to goals having scored only seven.
With Jaap Stam’s tactics and Reading’s recent ability to keep seventy percent possession, it will be interesting to see if Barnsley are able to create as many chances on Saturday. Everyone knows the issues surrounding the Reading strikeforce and subsequently it will also be interesting to see if they can start converting chances frequently.
Both sides will be missing players for Saturday’s game. Josh Scowen and Adam Armstrong face fitness tests but James Bree and Ryan Williams remain out for Barnsley. Reading meanwhile will have to cope without van den Berg after injuring his hamstring as well as Yakou Meite and Deniss Rakels who are both out with ankle injuries. John Swift may start but his substitute appearance against Birmingham suggests that he is not quite up to fitness.
In terms of previous matchups, the statistics are in Reading’s favour. Barnsley are winless in their last five home league meetings with Reading, having lost four and drawing one. Reading have also only lost one of their last eight league trips to Oakwell, losing 3-0 in August 1996. This season, however, Barnsley are currently one of three Championship sides with a 100% record at home.
Being at home, Barnsley will probably be the favourites but Reading will be a tough team to take on. The Royals remain unbeaten in five games in all competitions, winning three of them. Barnsley are also on a good run, being unbeaten in three and having scored ten goals in the process. It will be a hard fought game, but is the kind of fixture that the Royals need to be winning regardless of their opponent’s form and league positioning.