It’s not been too bad, overall. They got knocked out of the FA Cup by Luton at the start of January, but in terms of league form, they’ve done very well. They haven’t lost a game since the trip to Brentford – having won four and drawn three – and they are keeping pace with the sides at the top of the table. It would have been nice to have had a couple more wins along the way but they’ve been very strong. They beat Coventry 3-0 and Bournemouth 3-1 at the Madejski Stadium, beat Huddersfield on the road and picked up a few good draws in there as well
There were several key players missing that day, most notably striker Lucas Joao. Is the squad looking in better shape than it was last month?
Yes, very much so. They’ve still got three players out in Liam Moore, George Puscas and Felipe Araruna and I don’t think any of them will make tomorrow’s game but, apart from that, they are pretty much at full-strength. They’ve got Lucas Joao back and John Swift, too, who has really made a difference in recent weeks since coming back from his hamstring injury. There’s a very good balance to the side and I think that’s the key thing to the fact they’ve picked up the momentum they had right at the beginning of the season. They had a bit of a wobble but are coming back strongly now.
It was a quiet transfer window for the Royals on the whole, but the big story was the one linking left-back Omar Richards with Bundesliga giants Bayern Munich. What’s the latest on that?
He is out of contract in the summer and, from what I’m hearing, he will be going to Bayern Munich. I think that’s quite a way along the line now but he’s sticking around for the time being and doing very well. He’s still putting in very strong performances and I think that will be the case for the rest of the season. It was important they kept him in January, much like Michael Olise, who was also linked with a move away from the club. The most important thing for Reading in January was to keep their star players and they’ve done exactly that.
In December, you said Michael Olise would be the player for Brentford fans to keep an eye on. Would you say that’s still the case this time around?
Maybe John Swift, actually. In Swift, Olise and Ovie Ejaria, I think Reading have some of the best players in the division. He knits everything together and keeps things ticking over. He’s got an eye for a really good pass, has a good free-kick on him, can register assists and chip in with some goals as well. He’s a game changer and, on his day, he’s a really eye-catching player.
How is Paunovic likely to set up his side at the Madejski Stadium?
It will most likely be a 4-2-3-1. It will be Rafael in goal, with a back four of Tom Holmes, Michael Morrison and Tom McIntyre in the middle, with Omar Richards at left-back. The two holding midfielders will likely by Andy Rinomhota and Josh Laurent, while Swift, Ejaria and Olise – who can rotate - will be in front of them. Lucas Joao will spearhead the attack. There are a couple of changes Paunovic might make, with the fact they’ve just started a run of seven games in 21 days, so Andy Yiadom could come in at right-back and Yakou Meite could start as one of the attacking three.
The aforementioned win in December made it three straight wins for Brentford against Reading. What’s your score prediction for this one?
I think the fact Brentford are on such a run means they will edge it 2-1.
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