Next up is a trip to face newly promoted Reading, a side still looking for their first league win and who have generally had the look of team heading for a swift return to the Championship. This preview will take a more in depth look at the Royals, manager Brian McDermott’s likely approach and predict where the game will be won and lost….
Although McDermott has the look of man only a high-viz vest away from a career in railway maintenance, you couldn’t grumble with the effectiveness of the job he has done at Reading since he took charge. With the exception of Pogrebnyak there are few real stars but there is a real team ethos at the club. Style wise, McDermott’s approach is the classic British model with their promotion built on hard work, a resolute defence and pace in wide areas. On the ball, they are statistically the worst passers in the division, make more long balls than benchmark cloggers Stoke and only Pulis’ mob record a lower share of possession than McDermott’s side. Off the ball, they make the fewest tackles and fouls in the league, will let you play and get 10 men behind the ball as rapidly as possible, looking to soak up pressure and then engineer fast breaks. In short, the Blues will have bags of possession as we did last week against Sunderland.
Above Likely Formations EFC (Black) 4-2-3-1 Reading (Blue) 4-4-2
In central defence, Sean Morrison is very in experienced at this level and should be targeted; at 6:4 he is great in the air but on the deck is susceptible to quick feet. Ditto Kasper Gorkss with the exception of in-experience. Gunter will play at right back with serial crossaphile Nicky Shorey a threat whipping balls into the box from left back ; the Royals make the most crosses per game in the top flight (29) and are good aerially so Distin could be recalled after the big man played an u-21’s game in midweek. Federici will continue in goal after coming in for McCarthy who performed well against QPR prior to his injury.
Jimmy Kebe was man of the match the last time we met when Reading deservedly dumped us out of the FA Cup in 2011. Kebe isn’t a regular starter and will most likely get 20mins for McCleary in the second period. Jobi McAnuff has four assists and although he is inconsistent will be the main threat on the other flank. Their most stylish player Karacan is un-fit and so expect Leigertwood to sit in midfield with Jay Tabb.
In Reading’s previous forays into the top flight we had mixed results on their patch; winning 2-0 and losing 0-1 with the odious Stephen Hunt scoring the winner. Amazingly Hunt has scored for 3 different clubs against the Blues. His not so better looking brother Noel was preferred last week to Pogrebnyak and could lead the line again alongside Jason Roberts.
As Tuesday’s Physio Blog informed us, Kevin Mirallas will definitely miss out but could be back for next week’s game with Norwich. The Belgian will be a big loss; alongside Fellaini he has been the key performer in recent weeks with his direct style and capacity to commit defenders providing an added dimension to our play in the final third. The deputising Naismith is a different cat altogether; he will hold his position more, usually tucking inside on the right and although the Scot has missed a few chances he has a decent habit of finding space in the box which could prove valuable over the course of the season. Darron Gibson, Tony Hibbert and Victor Anichebe are not yet expected to be ready to start a game with all 3 given an outside chance of being on the bench. After his impact last weekend Velios is ‘pushing’ for a start and if Plan A becomes defunct don’t be surprised to see the Greek coming on and Fellaini dropping deeper to find space as per last week’s dramatic comeback.
Everton are unsurprisingly short priced favourites at 6/7 with 32Red to win this one. Last week’s forecast of Sunderland H/T Everton F/T was backed by some of you (but sadly not myself) and you can get 26/1 on lightening to strike twice and for the Blues to come from behind and win with Betfair. Willie Hill’s are offering 13/20 on 2.5+ goals which has been a regular outcome in our games this season, as is the both teams to score market which is offered at 11/17 with Bwin. On-form Fellaini is clearly the one to watch at the moment and you can get 3/1 with Betfred on the curly haired dynamo to score / Everton win double. Jelavic is 9/1 to get a brace or more with Velios 9/1 for last scorer.