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Pace, Possession & Passes - How Reading FC will look to hurt Chris Coleman’s Sunderland today

This weekend we welcome Reading to the Stadium of Light. They are currently sat in 16th place but are beginning to hot up this season, with four wins in their last nine. Can Sunderland realistically expect to win this weekend?

Sunderland v Derby County - Sky Bet Championship Photo by Mark Runnacles/Getty Images

The story so far

Jaap Stam and his Reading side have started far slower then they will have perhaps wanted, stark in comparison to their performance last season where they reached the Championship playoff final, only losing on penalties to David Wagner’s Huddersfield Town.

There have been signs however that things are picking up. Six wins, five draws and eight defeats so far this season have left them with 23 points, and the Royals are currently sat in 16th position.

Reading began the current campaign with two wins from their first five games - including a home victory over Aston Villa. But the Royals stuttered through September without achieving a victory before winning impressively at Leeds United in early October. Stam and his team have won four of their last nine games, which suggests that they are on the up and they only tasted defeat once in November - at the hands of league leaders Wolves.


Last time out

Reading hammered Barnsley 3-0 on Tuesday night to push themselves up to 16th place in the division.

13,317 saw the game at the Madejski stadium in which David Edwards opened the scoring on 20 minutes. Joey Van Den Berg scored an impressive second just nine minutes later to leave the hosts in a commanding position heading into halftime.

Reading v Barnsley - Sky Bet Championship
Joey van den Berg of Reading celebrates scoring against Barnsley
Photo by Harry Murphy/Getty Images

The Royals were made to sweat a bit in the second half as Barnsley pressed to get back into the game, but a Jon Dadi Bodvarsson goal sealed the win on 88 minutes.

Barnsley could probably count themselves to be a bit unlucky as they out-shot their opponents. But, the game seemed to be pretty even and was settled by the quality that Reading possess going forward.


Dangerman

Sone Aluko and Mo Barrow could cause Sunderland any amounts of problems with their speed and trickery if they decide to turn up today, and Chris Coleman will be hoping that Reading’s pacey forwards have an off day against his side. We also will welcome back the ginger warrior Paul McShane this weekend, who I am sure will be itching to put on a good display upon his return to the Stadium of Light.

That said, Welsh midfielder David Edwards gets my nod as the dangerman. A man of the match performance midweek will have given the former Wolves player a tremendous amount of confidence heading into this weekend's game. Last season Edwards scored 10 goals for Wolves, so he will surely be looking to add to his current tally of three goals and he will see Sunderland’s leaky defence as the perfect opportunity to improve his own individual record.

Watch out for late runs into the box and headers from Edwards - Sunderland’s midfielders will need to be aware at all times in order to ensure he doesn’t take liberties against us.


Manager

Jaap Stam was known as one of the greatest central defenders to ever grace the Premier League when he played for eventual treble-winners Manchester United in the late 90s and early 2000s. Stam had a trophy-laden career winning the Premier League, Champions League, Eredivisie, Coppa Italia and the FA Cup.

Jaap Stam of Manchester United
Jaap Stam was a pretty class player

Stam began his coaching career as assistant manager for FC Zwolle before moving to Ajax in 2013, where he took roles as first team assistant and reserve assistant.

His first managerial job came when he arrived at Reading, where he’s enjoyed relative success ever since - though it will have been hugely disappointing to have missed out on a place in this season’s Premier League on penalties.


Referee

Controversial whistler Keith Stroud takes charge this weekend's game at the Stadium of Light - and his exploits in the North East last season earned him a barrel-load of criticism from Newcastle supporters having royally ballsed up a penalty decision at St James’ Park.

Stroud was removed off the Football League referee rota last season after wrongly failing to allow Matt Ritchie to retake his spot-kick after the initial scored effort was disallowed - an incident which you can re-live below.

Having taken time to reflect upon that decision he came back in September and has taken charge of ten games since, including Reading’s 4-2 away win at Derby last month.

Stroud is fairly card happy - he has already given 49 yellows and three reds this season in just 10 games.


Statistical analysis

Since Coleman arrived just weeks ago, Sunderland have change their style slightly and have attempted to try and keep the ball down and play a bit more than they did previously under Simon Grayson.

Should Coleman opt to operate in a similar fashion today it will make for an interesting game, as his opposite in the other dugout also likes his side to hold the ball and tire their opponents through retaining possession.

Reading, according to whoscored.com, actually have less notable strengths than Sunderland but Chris Coleman’s side are far weaker defensively compared to this weekend’s opponents.

Aluko and Barrow will cause us problems this weekend if we aren’t careful, and it’s important to note that our full backs have continually struggled against decent wingers this season - I’m sure that memories of Samu Saiz, Marcus Tavernier and Albert Adomah destroying our full backs are still fresh in the mind.

The key thing that Sunderland need to do is find a way to neutralize Reading’s forwards - we’re going to need huge performances from Bryan Oviedo and Adam Matthews if we are to escape unscathed from what will surely be a very tough duel between two sides that are, all things considered, pretty evenly matched.