After a respectable 2-2 draw against one of the divisions, best footballing sides in Brentford, Aston Villa host Paul Clement’s Reading side who will be disappointed to find themselves sitting in 23rd place with one draw and three losses from there opening four games.
On paper, Reading has started poorly this season but if you look into their games, it could have been very different. The Royals started the season with a 2-1 loss against Derby thanks to a last minute winner from Tom Lawrence. They followed this up with two 1-0 losses against Nottingham Forest and Bolton. And finally, on Wednesday night they threw away a 2-0 lead midweek against Blackburn to draw 2-2.
Modou Barrow will be looking to regain his starting role after playing just 13 minutes in Readings last game. The Gambian winger has made the 7th most dribbles per game in the league with 2.3 per game. However, this isn’t as good as Grealish who completes the most in the division with 4 per game. Although Barrow is a good dribbler, he is also one of the most disposed players in the division. On average he has the ball taken off him 3 times a game.
If Reading is to gain anything from this game they will look to John Swift. The England U21 box to box midfielder has an 89.2% pass accuracy so far this season. This will be key for the Royals to help get the ball to the men up top.
Swift’s importance to Reading has been increased after the side lost central midfielder George Evans, to Derby County. However, they have replaced him with the experienced David Meyler on a free transfer from Hull. The midfield will be key in this game for Reading as Villa have arguably one of the best midfields in the division. If Clements side can’t contain that, they could be in for a very hard afternoon.
It will be interesting to see how influential Grealish and John McGinn will be as Reading do well at interceptions. They average 14.8 per game so far this season.
The Big Match
Villa fans will be hoping to see a repeat performance as they showed against Brentford. Was it a one-off and we return to the below-par performances we witnessed at the start of the season. Having seen what we are capable of, fans will want more or the Bruce boo boys could return.
The key for Villa will be to limit the amount of ball that Reading’s Icelandic striker Jón Dadi Bödvarsson gets. The 26-year old ex-Wolves forward sits on 3 goals from 3 starts this season. He is also the only player to score for Reading in this campaign.
Similarly, Villa will hope Jonathan Kodjia can continue his good form. The Ivorian international started the season below his standards compared to two seasons ago. The striker has scored 3 in the last two games. It is key for Bruce with injury problems for Scott Hogan and Keinan Davis leaving Rushian Hepburn-Murphy the only other fit striker.
Alan Hutton is expected to be OK despite breaking his nose against Brentford. There is no new news on Davis or Hogan as both remain out until after the International break.
New signing Anwar El-Ghazi will be available to play if he gets international clearance in time.