Any talk that Reading might be falling away from the top six following a run of just three wins in 12 through November and December has been firmly silenced by a seven-game unbeaten run which leaves The Royals in fourth ahead of tonight's game.
Veljko Paunović won seven of his first eight league games in charge, despite only being installed a week before the start of the campaign. Then came that lean run which co-incided with a raft of injury issues in RG2.
When Reading lost to us in December, the last time they tasted defeat in the league, they did so without their two top scorers, Lucas Joao and Yakou Meite, as well as midfield star John Swift. All three are now back with Joao scoring four in his last five while Swift has slotted straight back into his central attacking role.
Paunović has, however, been able to name a consistent spine to the team with goalkeeper Rafael, central-defender Michael Morrison, and holding midfield pair of Andy Rinomhota and former Bee Josh Laurent starting every game so far in 2020/21.
We welcomed back Josh Dasilva and Bryan Mbeumo on Saturday following minor issues whie Christian Norgaard and Emiliano Marcondes continue to make good progress towards a return. Pontus Jansson (ankle), Luka Racic (back), and Shandon Baptiste (knee) are the long-term absentees.
For Reading George Puskas (hernia), Liam Moore (foot), and Felipe Araruna (knee) are out but Ovie Ejaria and Sam Baldock returned to the squad for Saturday's draw against Stoke City following minor issues.
Veljko Paunović began his playing career with Partizan Belgrade in his native Serbia but it was in Spain that he enjoyed his most successful times as a player. He had three spells with Atletico Madrid as well as turning out for seven other Spanish sides during his 15 year career. Paunović also played professionally in Germany, Russia and the United States, ending his career with 87 goals in 411 appearances. At international level, he played twice in friendlies for his nation, scoring against Northern Ireland in April 2004.
His first coaching roles were all within the Serbian FA. He led the Under-18s, Under-19s, and Under-20s, winning the 2015 FIFA World Cup with the latter. Shortly after that success, he took charge at Chicago Fire in the MLS. He spent four years in Illinois, leading them to the end of season Play-Offs in 2017. The 43-year-old left Fire last November and replaced Mark Bowen at Reading in August.
⚖ Tony Harrington will be the man in charge tonight
🆚 Berkshire Live's Jonathan Low previews The Royals
LAST TIME OUT
HOW TO FOLLOW
Tonight's game was initially a Saturday afternoon fixture so there is no VIP access for Season Ticket Holders and Premium Seat Members who froze their tickets.
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