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💬 Bowen expecting toughest test yet against high-intensity Leeds

Boss previews the visit to Elland Road

20 February 2020

Royals boss Mark Bowen is expecting one of the toughest games of the season away at promotion-hopefuls Leeds United this weekend.

Reading go in off the back of a 3-0 win in Yorkshire last weekend, having beaten Sheffield Wednesday on their own patch, but the next challenge is a tricky one against a high-tempo Whites side.

“There has been questions asked about their form over the past six, eight, ten games,” Bowen said. “For me, I think West Brom are possibly the best team in this league. But I think the hardest team to play against is probably Leeds.

“The intensity that they play at, the questions that they ask of you all the time, it’s never ending. We found that to our cost in the home game against them. We did play well that day and our physical stats were through the roof in trying to cope with them, but we got caught out.

“Their home crowd demand that they play and push forward; that can cause its own problems and we can try to exploit that. But it is going to be a tough battle and a tough game from start to finish.

“We want to get more of that consistency. It was a blessing to us all to come out of Saturday with a win as it had been too long, but we had had some good performances. And if you play well, you do get your rewards. Now we are striving to get more consistency in our play, which allows you to pick up points and wins more often.”

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On a rare week without a midweek fixture, some of the team had a bit of down-time – but now it’s full focus on the match.

The team trained at Bearwood on Thursday – in the teeming rain and swirling wind – all part of the prep for the weekend’s match.

“That’s one of the drawbacks of the job!” Bowen said. “It’s nice working outside but on days like today, it was a bit of a squall over there. But we got good work done. And it’s no worse than it was against Sheffield Wednesday! So we’ve got used to it.

“When you travel away from home to a difficult place and when conditions are like they were last weekend, it is important to have the mindset that you and your supporters have come a long way, so let’s get down to business and be professional in what we do.

“I had been complaining that in this league you don’t get a lot of time to work with players on the training ground. But we are also aware that after that, we’ve got a midweek game against Wigan, one at the weekend against Barnsley and then Sheffield United in the cup. It’s relentless.

“So I have had to balance it up. Some of the players have had two or three days off, just to make sure they get their mental rest. Me and my staff bombard these players with information and you hope they take it on board. And that means you need downtime too, to switch off.

“But we’re back in now, fully focused, and making sure that we’re professional in the way that we got into the game.”

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