On Saturday, we will see the first away game of the season for the boys. Having started the season in the most Reading way possible, snatching a defeat from the hands of a hard-fought point in the 94th minute, hopefully we will get our season up and running at the City Ground. Whilst some Reading fans were disappointed with the lack of incomings on deadline day, the value of keeping Liam Moore cannot be understated – no matter if it is only until January. However this weekend we come up against a side similar not only in geographical location to Derby County, but who have had similar summers. Forest are a much changed side than the one which featured in the dramatic game at the Macron Stadium in May which saw Bolton remain in the League. Just what can we expect however?
Forest are led by former Boro manager Aitor Karanka. The Spaniard has always implemented a rather pragmatic, defensive style (often perceived as boring by opponents.) Although Karankea saw success with this system at Middlesbrough, he has found it tougher at the City Ground. Having previously got the Teesiders promoted, he has found it tougher this time around. He has only managed 5 wins in his 23 games, losing double the amount they have won. It will be interesting to say how long Forest will persevere with that record in the coming campaign given the amount of money spent in the summer transfer window. Here’s hoping that Karanka records his eleventh defeat this weekend for Forest as opposed to his sixth victory.
It has been a mixed bag so far for the Reds. Having played a game more than Reading, it has been slightly easier to gauge their form however it is far too early to suggest how they may do this year in a league as competitive as the Championship. With a lot of investment into the playing staff this summer, Reading will have to be wary of a number of threats across the pitch. Lewis Grabban has joined on a permanent deal from AFC Bournemouth with his quality being apparent in spells during his brief loan stint at the Madejski. Alongside Grabban, the exciting attacking midfielder Joao Carvalho adds an unpredictability and creativity behind the front men that will have to be marshalled effectively by the Reading back line. Michael Hefele has joined from Huddersfield to shore up a defensive back line that with Dawson, Fox and Osborn has substantial experience in this league. For me, despite heavy investment it will take time for these players to gel into an effective side capable of challenging the business end of the table but like their big rivals Derby – they do have the quality to do so.
With over £25m net spend in the summer, the City Ground is likely to be buoyant with optimism and excitement, despite the hosts only picking up two points out of a possible six in the opening two fixtures. The City Ground on it’s day is an excellent example of the passionate support that you can see in the second tier of English football, most recently encapsulated during their victory over Arsenal in the FA Cup last year. It’ll be important for Reading to suppress early excitement and take the sting out of the game should Forest start brightly. I do fear should we go behind, the momentum will be firmly with the hosts. The first goal this weekend will be massive.
I don’t want to appear overly pessimistic, as I think we will be okay for a mid table finish this year, but I do see a consecutive defeat on the cards. I’m going to go with 2-0 to the hosts.