Whilst Reading will be without Pogrebnyak on Wednesday night, this shouldn’t really alter how they set up, based on how they’ve played this season thus far. Prior to the Brighton game, during which the Russian picked up two yellow cards, Pogrebnyak had only played seven minutes of league football, appearing as an 83rd minute substitute in Reading’s opening game of the season. Aside from this, his only appearance was in the 6-0 loss against Peterborough in the League Cup.
If his appearance on Sunday was an anomaly, how do Reading generally set up? The preference seems to be a 4-4-2, with a slightly smaller striker playing off a slightly larger target man. With Pogrebnyak’s suspension, the target man will likely be Nick Blackman, who has scored one goal thus far this season. He will probably be partnered by Le Fondre, who is a clear threat and a typical poacher. The real concern is on the wings, with Roysten Drenthe talented but inconsistent.
The Midfield Battle and how we can win it
That said, we have the potential to massively overrun Reading in the centre of midfield, given their habit of playing a flat four. If our front two put the effort in (as they have done so far) to close down Reading’s full backs if they offer a threat, we should be able to deal with the issue on the wings and take advantage of our two extra bodies in midfield. We can overload in these key areas, and given the flat four, McCormack should find plenty of space in the hole, with no obvious candidate in Reading’s setup to track his movement. If McCormack gets on the ball regularly, he could be have one of his better games. Take the Ipswich match as an example of what McCormack can do in our diamond formation against a 4-4-2.
Furthermore, another of the midfield should benefit from the potential overload there. I expect Austin to be picked up consistently by their midfield (likely Guthrie/Karacan), as he offers the most direct threat, which would give one of the more central two a bit more space and freedom than usual. For this reason I’d be tempted to play Tonge over Green again, as given this time on the ball he can create useful chances for our forward players further up the pitch.