Match Preview: Reading FC (vs) Aston Villa – Last Away Win? Only 437 days ago.

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It was 437 days ago.

The sun was shining.

Rudy Gestede was adorned with a poor man’s Fellaini hair cut.

Tim Sherwood held the reigns at our grand old club.

It was also the last time we managed to win away from Villa Park.  Tactics Tim?

Villa go to Reading in urgent need of three points.  Whilst played down by some, had we failed to secure a point against Wolves, then we would now be in the relegation places.  

That’s got to be a wake up call.

Whilst there’s plenty of time and games remaining, and The Villa Underground isn’t the place for scaremongering, lurking around the bottom of a division isn’t healthy.

Whilst we rightly harbour ambitions to mount some sort of challenge for promotion, realistically now via the playoffs, we must first get our house in order.

The display against Wolves will have told new manager Steve Bruce plenty about what he’s inherited.  The egos, their limitations and their potential.

Whilst our apparent lack of stamina is on the tip of most supporters lips, there is the wider puzzle as to why our new faces simply aren’t gelling.  

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Bruce may find overcoming this problem a challenge, but he’s now charged with blending multiple new signings (and remnants of the bomb squad) into a winning formula.

Individual form aside, we have looked increasing less like a team as each game has passed us by.  Also, our inability to retain leads or win a game of football could well be a new mental barrier to overcome.  The “Why is this the case?” is increasingly less important than “How can we fix this?”.

The Villa players are therefore best advised to avoid looking at the form table.  We now sit 22nd of 24.  

Reading by contrast sit 6th based on their last 8 games.  Similarly to Villa, The Royals also remain unbeaten at home.  An unbeaten side facing a team that hasn’t won away since August 2015….oh…where to put your money?

Bruce will though have some interesting selection choices to mull ahead of the game.

Right back is a major problem, with injuries and quality of cover an obvious concern.  Hutton emerged from the bench to replace Micah Richards against Wolves.  Leandro Bacuna may yet find himself shoe-horned into the role.

Elphick, who has struggled for form at centre half, misses out through injury.  Nathan Baker is the likely beneficiary, offering the former Bristol City loanee a chance to state a claim alongside Chester.

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There remains a possible last minute withdrawel of Jack Grealish dependent upon whether the FA decide to intervene regarding the Conor Coady alleged stamp.

The midfield, a constant worry, now presents a real dilemma.  Tshibola was overwhelmed by Wolves’ central 3 at the weekend & Jedinak has yet to find a Claret and Blue shirt with a football.  Recalls for the rightly maligned Westwood and disappointing Gardner are not beyond the realms of possibility.

The adoption of a 4-4-2 provides width through Adomah and Grealish, but both desperately need to find form to take our strikers out of starvation mode.

Ayew, is available after international excursions.  And Gestede may feel aggrieved for being sidelined despite promising early season form.  Kodjia should remain due to his offering a constant goal-threat, but McCormack may be used in a  supporting role or swapped out in favour of a different approach.

The objective is simple; let’s win a game of football….by any means…away from home.

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