First things first, I would just like to say that enough is enough and both UEFA and FIFA really need to start clamping down on the abhorrent racist behaviour seen from many fans during the international break.

This is behaviour that’s been seen from many fans during many an international break but in this particular instance the Bulgarian fans. The horrific, ignorant attitude they showed toward the England players with their racist chanting and also the staff and players after the game with their post-match comments, needs to be stamped out of football for good. It’s clear to most that banning fans from stadiums and putting ‘respect’ banners up in their place does absolutely naff all. It must stop.

With that said, another international break is now (thankfully) done and dusted and domestic football is just around the corner again. This time Alex Neil takes his men to the Madejski Stadium to take on Reading who have a new manager at the helm.

As we alluded to in a piece of content around the first international break of the season, our record in recent times hasn’t been great ‘post-break’. In fact, Alex Neil’s win record after an international break is only at 12.5% with our only victory from 8 prior to this season coming against Rovers with that emphatic 4-1 win.

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In a funny quirk, Reading are actually the team we’ve faced the most immediately following an international break however, we ended up losing both games so here’s hoping that we can get a second win after a break this season and a first win away at Reading since 2016.

Recent Form

In terms of recent form, we couldn’t really have asked for much better. We’re unbeaten in our last 8 with 5 wins and 3 draws. We’re still unbeaten at home in the league this season and to be quite honest, we look a side that’s hungry. Hungry to do well this season and fingers crossed, we can keep up our current run when we head down south this weekend.

We have a pretty formidable goal-scoring record this season. We’re the highest scorers in the league and have scored in 10 of our 11 matches so far this season, 91% of our league games played, we have scored in. We have also scored the first goal in 9 of the 11 games and conceded first in only 2.

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Reading, on the other hand, have only won 1 of the last 8 games they have played and drawn 2 more. Picking up only 5 points from a possible 24 perhaps played a part in former manager José Gomes getting potted before this game. I don’t claim to know any of the goings-on at Reading, on the pitch or otherwise but ultimately results speak for themselves in this game.

Our record, as alluded to earlier, is pretty poor at Reading so I’m by no means expecting a win tomorrow and there’s always the ‘new manager bounce’ to consider too but I would like to think we will go at this game as we have done plenty of others this season; go for the jugular, right from the off and keep up our recent run of good form.

Potential Dangers

The obvious one here is John Swift. With 4 assists and 2 goals already this season, he’s come to the fore compared to previous seasons and there’s perhaps a feeling among Reading fans that if he were to stay fit this season, it could be a bit of a break out season for him in terms of the wider media and appreciation of his as a player.

He has an eye for a pass and is a strong, powerful footballer and the majority of Reading’s creativity through the middle of the park comes through Swift. Some fans may even consider him a ‘risky’ passer but Reading would certainly be weaker without him. It’s certainly going to be interesting to see how Ben Pearson handles him.

The second one I have here is the on-loan Ovie Ejaria. The 21-year old is on loan at the Royals from Liverpool but have an agreement to sign him permanently next summer. Ejaria is a pacy ball carrier and isn’t afraid to carry Reading forward with the ball at his feet. He also enjoys a speculative attempt from distance too so that’s going to be something for Rudd to watch for and hopefully, Bauer to get his head behind.

Opposition View

This week’s opposition view comes to you from Alex Everson. You can follow him on twitter here – @Readingfanman. He can also be found occasionally podcasting with the folks from elmparkroyals.com. Without further ado…

It’s the start of a new (Yes, another) new era for us at Reading, with Mark Bowen having taken over this week after Jose Gomes was sacked during the international break.

We’re in pretty awful form with just 1 point in the last 6 league games, with that coming in the form of a last-minute equaliser away at Swansea City. However, that is not to be said that we haven’t deserved more despite our finishing thus far being woeful and has meant we have been chasing games.

We made a number of signings over the summer, so for anyone who came down in March – you will see a vastly different team, with Rafael, Puscas and Pele all likely to feature. George Puscas is the main man upfront for us but has really struggled to get going yet, despite his brilliant home debut against Cardiff which you may have seen on TV.

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Trying to predict our starting line up this weekend is both easy, and tough at the same time. With Bowen now in charge, we may struggle to predict his line up for this weekend after previous exiled first-team squad members Chris Gunter and Garath McCleary were bought back into the fold this week, along with Sam Baldock looking more likely to potentially feature.

Injury wise, Reading are fairly well stocked, with no major injuries currently, and fringe player Tyler Blackett coming back to fitness. We also have John Swift returning from suspension after his one-match ban.

Reading have struggled this season to date, and trying to predict where we’ll finish is almost a lottery – however, it feels like we are not too far away from being a mid-table side potentially. This weekend, assuming we line up in a similar fashion, it’ll be a 3-5-2 with 2 wing-backs. However, this could easily also be a 4-3-3 with 2 wide forwards depending on how Bowen wants to set us up.

My hope is that Reading can create a decent number of openings and that we will be able to actually succeed and break the Preston backline. I will optimistically go for a 1-1 draw, Reading although results have been bad are extremely unclinical, with Preston extremely clinical so far this season – this has to come down back towards the mean at somepoint right?

Of course, saying this, we could just as easily lose 0-2 or 0-3. Reading are extremely unpredictable and a tough team to both predict, and to (potentially, on paper!) play against this season.

Predictions

Another tough one in terms of predicting a result but I don’t think there’s going to be much in the way of change for the starting XI so I’ll go for the following: Rudd; Fisher, Bauer, Davies, Hughes; Pearson, Gallagher; Maguire, Johnson, Harrop; Barkhuizen. I think Nugent will drop down to the bench and will come into the game at a later stage.

In terms of a score prediction, I’ll say a 3-1 win for North End to pick up our second win on the road this season. What do you think about the game? How do you think we will line up and do you think we will bury the recent hoodoo when it comes to playing at the Madejski? Let us know on social media.

Finally, if you haven’t already (yes, this is a shameless plug) give Episode #2 of From the Finney Meets… Chris Sedgwick a listen. Some great tales from the former number 7. Just hit play below and you’re away. We’re also on Spotify, Apple Podcasts and many other podcast platforms.