Reading vs Hull City
Saturday 23rd September 2017 (KO 3pm)
Sky Bet Championship
Leonid Slutsky has defender Ondrej Mazuch available again after injury as the Tigers prepare for Saturday’s trip to Reading.
Mazuch has been absent since the 4-0 victory over Bolton Wanderers in late August with a knee problem but is back in contention for the clash against the Royals.
There are no fresh injury concerns for Slutsky to worry about with Abel Hernandez, Ryan Mason, Moses Odubajo, Kevin Stewart, Will Keane and Evandro all still missing.
Reading have a number of former Tigers in their ranks with Paul McShane, Sone Aluko, Vito Mannone and Stephen Quinn amongst their number, although Quinn’s only appearances so far this season have come in the Carabao Cup.
Manager Jaap Stam also has Jordan Obita and John Swift available again after injury as they look for their first league win since late August.
Leonid Slutsky is expecting a close game when the Tigers travel to face Reading on Saturday.
Both sides are currently level on points in the lower reaches of the early-season Championship table, but Slutsky is confident his men will soon start to put a run of results together having not won in their last three outings.
“I think in each of the last two matches we have had the chances to win but we haven’t taken them,” said Slutsky.
“I think our game against Reading will be a very close match, like 90 per cent of games in the Championship, and there will be many important moments in the game like chances and saves, and I think one key moment will decide the result.
“We have to find the optimal balance for our team. If you think too much about defence, you lose out in attack and if you think too much about attack, you lose out in defence. If you look at the statistics for the Championship, we are in the top three for scoring goals and in the top three for most goals conceded so we need to find a right balance.
“We are trying to change things and I hope that we will have an away win soon because it is now more than one year since this club won an away match.
“Reading will be a close game. Last season they played in the Play-Off Final and they have some very good attacking players like Bodvarsson and Aluko who they signed from Fulham. They look to have changed formation because last season they played with three central defenders and started the same this season, but now they look to play with two centre backs.
“I watched their last five matches and they look to be in a similar situation to us, looking for their optimal formation and style. All of their matches have been very close and I expect the same again this weekend.”
Jon Toral, meanwhile, insists everyone in the Tigers’ camp is working hard to improve the team’s away form.
Leonid Slutsky’s side have struggled on their travels this season, picking up just one point from a possible 12 on the road, which came in the 1-1 draw with Aston Villa on the opening weekend of the Sky Bet Championship campaign.
Defeats at QPR, Derby County and Fulham have followed that game at Villa Park, ensuring the Tigers head to Reading on Saturday looking to end a run of 22 away games without a win – a statistic Toral is keen to end at the Madejski Stadium.
“It’s not been very good for us away from home and we know it has to be better,” he said. “Hopefully it will start tomorrow at Reading.
“It’s always harder away from home but we have to work around it and focus to get better results away from home.
“We’ve been working on our shape. We know we need to perform better. We have had a full week to prepare and we’re ready.
“We’re confident, that’s how we need to approach it. We’ve been working really well in the week. If we perform well, we know we’re capable of winning the game.
Reading boss Jaap Stam says his side and Hull City are yet to hit top gear this season as they prepare to clash at Madejski Stadium.
Both sides have struggled for consistency, with Royals winning two out of seven Championship matches with three defeats leaving them 18th in the table, whilst the Tigers, meanwhile, have picked up two wins in eight games and have lost four times.
Both teams also boast an identical goal difference, with Hull one place higher in the table by virtue of goals scored (14 to Reading’s six).
However, Stam suggests a glut of injuries have taken their toll on Reading’s progress so far.
He said: “For them as well, it’s not easy to win all your games, same for us.
“It’s only the beginning of the league, you’re still building on something and getting players back into the squad and getting players fit.
“Eventually, hopefully you get into that rhythm of playing games and getting results. Hopefully, we can do well on Saturday against Hull.”
The Royals have been boosted by the return to fitness of Jordan Obita and John Swift this week, while last season’s 19-goal top scorer, Yann Kermorgant, is also close to a return.
Stam added: “It’s always good (having more players). It means we can make choices and we need to have a look at Hull to see what they do and how they play.
“Then it’s tactical training and talking with the boys about what we want to do to get a good result on Saturday.
“It’s going to be a tough game because they still have a very good side. They’ve sold a lot of players but they’re still a very good team and they still have ambitions to go back up as well.”
Hull City’s Last Five Results
D1-1 vs Sunderland (h)
L1-2 vs Fulham (a)
L0-5 vs Derby County (a)
W4-0 vs Bolton Wanderers (h)
L0-2 vs Doncaster Rovers (a)
Reading’s Last Five Results
L0-2 vs Swansea City (h)
D1-1 vs Brentford (a)
L0-1 vs Bristol City (h)
W2-0 vs Birmingham City (a)
W3-1 vs Millwall (h)
The Tigers have won four of their last seven away league trips to Reading, losing only once in that time (W4 | D2 | L1).
Reading have enjoyed an average possession figure of 59.8% in their league games so far this season, the highest in the Championship.
Both of these sides have scored goals exclusively from inside the area in the Championship this season – the Tigers with all 14 of their goals and Reading with six.
Stephen Martin will run the rule over Saturday’s Sky Bet Championship clash between the Tigers and Reading at the Madejski Stadium.
The official has overseen ten fixtures so far this season, issuing 14 yellow cards and one red card in the process with the red coming in his previous match as Middlesbrough beat Aston Villa 2-0 in the Carabao Cup in midweek.
The one and only previous time Martin has officiated a game involving the Tigers came in the 2015/16 campaign when Steve Bruce’s side suffered a 1-0 defeat away at Birmingham City.
Assisting Martin will be John Flynn and Akil Howson, while Tom Nield will be on fourth official duty.
This will be the 50th competitive meeting between these two sides. The Tigers have won 16 of those games, drawing 16 and losing the other 17. In away fixtures against the Royals, the Tigers have won eight of 24 in all competitions, with seven draws and nine defeats.
LAST TIME OUT
Andrew Robertson’s late winner secured all three points for the Tigers away at Reading as Steve Bruce’s men confirmed their place in the Championship play-offs.
Jake Cooper gave the hosts an early lead, heading home an Oliver Norwood cross after just four minutes.
But the Tigers weren’t behind for long as Abel Hernández levelled the scores 14 minutes later, latching onto Tom Huddlestone’s pass before slotting past Ali Al-Habsi.
Huddlestone was again the provider as the Tigers netted a 79th-minute winner courtesy of Robertson’s fine finish from outside the box.
It was the Tigers’ first victory away from home since February and one which guaranteed them a top-six finish with three games remaining.
Tickets are no longer available to purchase in advance from the Club. Fans will be available to buy on the day from the South Ticket Office at the Madejski Stadium (1.30pm onwards) – which is located between Gates 9 and 10.
FOLLOW THE ACTION
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