Form: Wycombe W D – – – | Reading L L – – –
The last time: Wycombe 0-2 Reading (26th Feb 2002, Division 2)
Coming into the Game
While league form shouldn’t really come into the equation here – especially so early in the season and with the difference in levels – you’d much rather be going into any game in Wycombe’s situation than Reading’s. We’ve kicked off a third tier season with consecutive clean sheets for the first time since 2000; the Royals have shipped five goals in back-to-back defeats at the start of their Championship campaign, leaving them 22nd in the table at this formative stage.
That hardly tells the whole story, though; with a high turnover of players this summer – ten permanent departures and 11 arrivals – and coming off the back of a bit of a season to forget, our visitors from the neighbouring county weren’t likely to come charging out of the blocks. The first ‘Bucks-Berks derby’ in 17-and-a-half years represents an ideal opportunity for Reading to test out some of their new recruits, but that’s not to say we should expect any less of a challenge; they’ve made some fine additions.
While Wycombe progressed beyond Round One of this competition for the first time in eight years last time around, Reading haven’t fallen at the first hurdle since 2013 – when they entered at the second round stage and were thumped 6-0 by then-League One Peterborough.
In Their Dugout: José Gomes
Appointed back in December, Gomes made Reading the 11th club of an eclectic managerial career that’s seen him tread technical areas in, among other countries, Hungary, Saudi Arabia and his native Portugal – where he last took charge of top flight outfit Rio Ave. One of three men to occupy the Madejski Stadium hotseat in 2018, the 48-year-old is the sixth permanent Royals boss in as many years. He had no playing career of note and has been involved in coaching for the best part of 25 years.
The Danger Man for Them: George Pușcaș
A legendary name, the mere mention of which would have struck fear into the hearts of countless defenders in the mid-20th century, there’s something nostalgically satisfying about seeing a Pușcaș in the modern game. Of course, the spelling will tell you that he’s no relation to the fabled Ferenc, icon of the Mighty Magyars, but his goals record – in internationals at least – makes for impressive reading, and his apparent star quality helps make for a potentially exciting campaign ahead for Reading.
The danger man and one of the numerous new men, the 23-year-old Romanian forward became the Royals’ record signing when he joined from Inter last week. An instinctive finisher capable of scoring a variety of goals, he shone at this summer’s European Under-21 Championship – the only player not from finalists Spain and Germany to make the Team of the Tournament – and scored four goals as the ‘Tricolorii mici’ made the semi-finals. Three of them came from the spot – including one in the 4-2 defeat of England – but he won plaudits with his eye-catching displays for an exciting team in general. As well as a prolific 18 goals in 25 U21 appearances, he’s netted four in eight full caps.
Before briefly returning to Inter, he spent last season at Palermo, registering nine times in 33 Serie B appearances. Check out some earlier highlights here:
Injuries and Suspensions
You’d imagine this one will come too soon for Sido Jombati and Curtis Thompson, but Wycombe otherwise have a full complement from which to select.
Reading will be missing defenders Tyler Blackett and Jordan Obita with a hamstring injury and knee problem respectively.
There was a fair bit of guesswork involved in these, but here goes…
Wycombe: Gareth Ainsworth has spoken of wanting to field a strong team, but that seems likely to involve some rotation. The gaffer has specifically mentioned Josh Parker, David Wheeler, Scott Kashket and Nick Freeman, as well as the inexperienced Giles Phillips and Jamie Mascoll. It wouldn’t be a surprise to see at least a couple of those first four start, and Parker could well make his second Wanderers debut in some capacity.
I’ve based this on their last league team and included some youngsters and summer signings, but don’t blame me if I’m off the mark! Pușcaș and Rafael have top flight experience in Italy, while captain Liam Moore has played at the highest level for Leicester – as has Charlie Adam, of course, with Blackpool, Liverpool and Stoke. John Swift made a sole Premier League appearance for Chelsea on the final day of the 2013/14 season. Rafael and the veteran Adam join Pușcaș in having won senior international caps, for Brazil and Scotland respectively. England U21 international Ovie Ejaria is on loan from Liverpool.
The Man in the Middle: Darren England
Although primarily a Championship referee, England took charge of Wycombe’s 1-1 League One draw with Luton at Adams Park early in 2018/19. We had two penalties in that game, only Joe Jacobson missed the second after being made to wait a year while England pandered to Nathan Jones’ whinging on the touchline. None of that nonsense tomorrow please, Darren.
His only game so far this season was West Brom’s 2-1 opening day win at Nottingham Forest, which was settled by spectacular/flukey long-range strike from former Blue Matt Phillips. His last Carabao Cup game was Forest’s 3-2 win over Stoke in Round Three last season, in which he reduced the Reds to ten men late on.
The Opposition View with Simeon Pickup (@SimFromBucks), Editor of The Tilehurst End
The Royals are very much still a work in progress at the moment, whether it’s in terms of overall development, José Gomes’ tactics, or indeed bedding in the sheer number of players signed over the summer – a total of ten. Because of those factors, predicting Reading’s team for Tuesday night will probably be as easy for you as it will be for me, but it’s safe to say that – in principle – it’ll be a side that Gomes will want to learn from, rather than just being there to win the game.
This early in the season, I haven’t yet properly got my head around Gomes’ thinking in terms of personnel, but you can probably expect to see some of the following play some part: new goalkeeper Rafael, returning midfielder Ovie Ejaria, veteran defender Michael Morrison, forward George Pușcaș, and youngsters Tom McIntyre (centre back), Michael Olise (attacking midfielder) and Andrija Novakovich (striker).
In terms of system, Gomes will likely want to see his side keeping the ball, dominating possession and using it effectively. That’s certainly his tactical philosophy, but it wasn’t used so much last season when the order of the day was being pragmatic in order to pick up points. However, in a match against lower-league opposition, he’s got an opportunity to develop the system that bit more. Formation-wise, expect to see a back four and no out-and-out wingers, but otherwise I’m not sure what he’ll pick, whether it’s a 4-3-3, 4-2-3-1 or 4-4-2 diamond.
Having lost both of our opening league games, this is a vital game for us in getting our season up and running. It’s not the end of the world if we don’t win, but going out would bring that bit more pressure and frustration at a time when the team needs to stay composed and focused while patiently developing.
Main image: DipsyDave via Wikimedia Commons. Used under license. Adapted.