Despite having failed to win at Preston, the Royals go into Friday evening’s televised meeting with Bournemouth unbeaten in five games, two points and one place above the Cherries ahead of their visit to Madejski Stadium.
The visitors have failed to win in their last three outings, which has seen them drop to 6th, but having just dropped down from the Premier League, they possess plenty of quality - something which the Royals will be very much aware of.
Jason Tindall’s men will be eager to put an end to their recent poor run of form, and despite a shaky start to January, they will look to the last time the two sides met for inspiration, when Reading fell to a 4-2 defeat at the Vitality Stadium.
Three points for Veljko Paunović’s side could see the Royals move level on points with a top two spot for the first time since mid-November.
How to watch
Friday evening’s fixture under the lights at the Madejski has been chosen for live Sky Sports coverage and will get underway at 8pm.
This broadcast selection, the Royals third televised league fixture of the month, means that our meeting with the Cherries will not be available for supporters to watch via iFollow.
The Cherries have remained in the race for an immediate return to the Premier League since the campaign got underway, but their charge for a top two spot has stalled somewhat in recent weeks following just one win in their last six league outings.
Last time out, the visitors recorded a 2-1 win as they edged past League Two side Crawley Town in the Fourth Round of the Emirates FA Cup but had no such luck in their previous league match as they fell to a narrow 1-0 defeat against a resurgent Derby County.
Tindall has already dipped into the January transfer market and has added former Arsenal midfielder Jack Wilshere to his ranks as they look to get back to winning ways. Bournemouth’s squad also features former Royal and Academy graduate Jack Stacey.
One to watch: Dominic Solanke
Former-Chelsea youth product Solanke, who arrived at the Vitality Stadium on a permanent basis from Liverpool in January 2019, has already made this season his best to date with the south coast side, as he tops their scoring charts with 10 goals from 25 league outings.
The 23-year-old forward, who has one senior England appearance to his name, has gained a wealth of Premier League experience over the last four years, and will hope to apply this by helping his side return to the top tier this year.
The U20 World Cup winner has inspired Tindall’s side to wins over Huddersfield, Barnsley and most notably Reading, as he netted one of four Cherries goals on an afternoon to forget for the Royals in late November. As a player whose ability to not only finish but to take on his man makes him a constant threat, Pauno’s side will need to nullify this come Friday evening.
Friday’s fixture presents the Royals with the opportunity to bring an end to an unwanted record against the Cherries.
Reading have not beaten Bournemouth at home since a 2-0 win in March 2000, when goals from Darren Caskey and Nicky Forster proved enough to down the Cherries in a season that saw the Royals complete the double over Bournemouth.
The last time the two sides met in RG2 back in April 2015, a single Callum Wilson effort saw Bournemouth run out 1-0 winners. There have been 113 meetings between the teams, of which Reading have won 42 and drawn a further 25.
James Linington will be the man in the middle at the Madejski, for what will be his first Reading game of the season.
Linington last took charge of a Royals match in July 2020, during which Pelé was the only player to be carded, as Reading ran out 5-0 winners against Luton Town at Kenilworth Road.
Daniel Leach and Rob Smith will assist Linington in RG2, while Charles Breakspear will be the fourth official on this occasion.
During Linington’s 15 league games to date, he has issued 34 yellow cards and an additional two red cards.
Notes from STAR
Supporters' Trust at Reading have put together their 'programme notes' ahead of the game, which you can access by clicking here.
A polite reminder to our supporters that no unauthorised access will be permitted to this game, so supporters must not travel to Madejski Stadium.
We can’t wait to see you all again soon – but for now it’s important that when we play, please stay away.