It’s far too early in the season to be talking about six-pointers, but this must feel like another defining game for Paul Clement.
Saturday’s win against Bristol City was not only a win on the pitch but a moral one for Clement. His team selections and tactical set up were popular, and despite making more defensive mistakes, ultimately the Royals earned a victory.
It could, and I stress, could be the start of a revival, and nobody would welcome that more than me. In a year or so’s time I would be delighted to praise Ron Gourlay and the owners for sticking by their man. Whether that will be a possibility remains to be seen.
Nevertheless, it simply must be a victory on Saturday. For once, I’m confident that will happen. It would prove a brilliant week picking up maximum points.
I can’t see many team changes. Yakou Meite is the major concern after hobbling off before half time. He shouldn’t be out for too long even if he misses this game. Clement all but confirmed that Sam Walker will continue in goal, with Jaakkola and Mannone remaining unfit. He reported no new injury concerns, and suggested that the injury list will soon start to shrink.
Knowing Reading, there will be fresh problems before long. It’s still unclear who Clement’s first choice goalkeeper, and centre-back pairing are. Whether John O’Shea can play three consecutive games isn’t a certainty, and given that we have kept only one clean sheet in the league, O’Shea and Moore is not the obvious pair for long term success. McShane and David Meyler are clearly not automatic starters at the moment. I would like to see them back in the fold to add more experience. Having said that Andy Rinomhota performed brilliantly on his full debut, and a lot of that was the role he was given. Whilst Kelly was tasked with controlling possession, and Bacuna offering support to the front three, Rino had a degree of freedom. Another bit of credit that I am giving the manager. Having such little game time took it’s tole, as he clearly tired, and replaced by Swift. He must be rewarded with a starting place. I can’t see many more team selections upsetting Reading fans more this weekend – perhaps only Sone Aluko!!
I actually expect an unchanged starting XI if Yakou Meite is fit. If he isn’t then I expect Baldock, McCleary and Barrow to start as the front three. I expect Barrow and Baldock to play regardless. Here is my predicted team in full;
GK: Sam Walker
RB: Andy Yiadom
CB: John O’Shea
CB: Liam Moore (C)
LB: Tyler Blackett
CM: Liam Kelly
CM: Leandro Bacuna
CM: Andy Rinomhota
RM: Garath McCleary/ Mo Barrow
ST: Yakou Meite/ Sam Baldock
LM: Sam Baldock/ Mo Barrow
Picture Credit: Reading FC