Manager looks ahead to Boro’s visit at the weekendReading have the third-best return in the Championship to date this season – but manager Steve Clarke knows there is still plenty of work to be done to convert a great start into a great season.
The same applies to Saturday’s visitors Middlesbrough – they sit in second place at the moment, and a win against the Teesside club would bring the Royals within two points of Aitor Karanka’s side. And Clarke feels that Boro are right to be considered amongst the most threatening of opponents in the division this year.
“I think for everyone the most important thing over the summer was to make the team more competitive,” said the Royals boss. “We believe we’ve done that, but the season has got a long way to go yet. We’re not getting carried away. The players had a couple of days off at the start of the week, cleared their minds, and since we came back on Tuesday we’ve been focused on the next game against Middlesbrough at home.
“It’ll be another tough game on Saturday, against what is probably the best team in the league in Middlesbrough. They are a team that has been building towards promotion for the past two or three seasons now. They are always building, always investing in a team that is getting stronger and stronger and it will be a good test for us and I think it will be a good test for them as well.
“They will come with confidence after their good run, but I’m sure we will approach the game with a similar level of confidence. They are a team that is built on solid foundations, they are difficult to break down, they pass the ball well and keep the ball well but also have a threat upfront and a threat through the middle.
“David Nugent is a clever Championship player, Stewart Downing, who I know from when I worked with him at Liverpool, is a player that can create something out of nothing. They have the Christian Stuani on the right who has done very well, and they have Albert Adomah on the other side. So they have four front players with a lot of potential to cause us problems if we don’t defend well.”
Across the board, squad fitness is good and most players will be available to be called upon this weekend. Striker Orlando Sa, who had four goals in two games before his sending off against Derby, returns to contention this weekend after serving his ban.
Clarke continued: “Steven Quinn is definitely out, and Matej Vydra has got a very small chance of being involved and as I stand here now I would doubt that he will be. But we have Orlando back from suspension so that gives us more options which is good.
“Orlando was in a really good place before he got the red card – it’s something that happens in football, he knows how to deal with it, he’s trained well and worked well so he’s available now and it gives me more options to think about for the weekend.
“The squad is looking in good shape. At this stage of the season you’re glad you have a big squad because you start to pick up one or two knocks, and as you saw with Orlando you can pick up suspensions. So the bigger the squad and the better the quality of the squad, the better for everyone.”
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