Benjy Nurick, Digital Sports Reporter at The Reading Chronicle, has his say on The Royals...
Reading currently sit 21st in The Championship table, having lost 19 of their 34 games played this campaign.
“This season, if you look at external factors, pretty much everything has gone wrong. Due to EFL sanctions and breaching the financial fair play sustainability rules, they had transfer limitations in the summer. They were deducted six points in November and then they’ve had a massive injury crisis over the winter months.
“All of that has led to a potentially promising season turning into one that has been fairly catastrophic. The aim now really is survival. An already thin squad was wiped out by injuries and the team struggled to win for around three months which led to Veljko Paunovic leaving the club."
Paul Ince replaced Veljko Paunovic last month, and he has the task of keeping his team in the Division.
“Fans wanted him gone for weeks prior, but the ownership put it off for as long as they possibly could have. In the end, he essentially resigned. It was called a mutual agreement, but he clearly felt that he had to go. Paul Ince is the complete opposite as a manager. It’s hard to really judge Paul so far, having only played two games.
“He’s only had a few training sessions with the team. Ahead of this match he will have had a full week to work with the players. We should get our first taste of what Paul Ince is about and his tactical vision.”
Reading sit six points above the drop zone, but Barnsley do have a game in hand in order to close that gap.
“The situation looks a lot happier than it did approximately two weeks ago. Reading went on a run of six consecutive defeats in all competitions including five in the Championship. They were in shocking form. Picking up points between November and February was tough and the gap between them and the relegation zone was down to two points at one point.
“They picked up seven points in one week, and those points have really changed the complexion of the relegation battle. It seemed that Reading were the falling stone, getting worse and worse, with other teams around them picking up points. That’s how quickly things can change at the bottom of the table.
“It does feel like there’s a little bit of renewed life in this Reading team. The gap looks a lot healthier, and Derby seem to be losing steam. It’s still of course a battle, and they’ll have to remain vigilant and pick up enough points. It does look a lot safer than it did a week or two ago.”
John Swift and Lucas Joao are the stand out players in Reading's ranks.
“This Reading team, defensively, are an absolute shambles. They’ve conceded 67 goals in The Championship – the most in the League this season. They conceded four again last weekend against Blackpool. The key with Reading in most games, is that they have to outscore the opposition.
“Lucas Joao is one of the best strikers in the Division when he is on form. He returned in mid-January from a hip injury and took a little bit of time to get up to speed. He has really started to find his feet in the last four or five matches. He has five goals in his last five outings.
“He will score the typical striker goals, in and around the six-yard area, but he also can make opportunities for himself. When he’s on form, he can cause anyone issues. John Swift is what you’d call a ‘number 10,’ although really, he gets as close to the striker as he can. They both link up incredibly well. Combined they are a dangerous proposition for any team.”
Benik Afobe found the net back in November to give Millwall all three points against Reading.
“I think Millwall will be a tough opponent for Reading. The Royals want to get the ball on the ground and play football. They want the game to be on the floor and to be relaxed for want of a better word. I think Millwall will get in their face and try to physically assert their dominance. That’s what Blackpool did to Reading.
“I think Millwall will bring a tough physical challenge to Reading, and Paul Ince's team will need to be solid defensively and not make silly errors. I do think Reading can get at Millwall at the other end. I always predict high scoring games when it’s Reading, so I’ll go 2-2 – I think they’ll be plenty of chances for both sides.”