Reading boss pinpoints defensive weak spot where Preston North End could profit on Saturday

Reading will be hoping to get their season under way against Preston North End this weekend, as they are yet to record a win.

By Tom Sandells
Friday, 13th August 2021, 12:30 pm

The Royals lost on the opening day to Stoke City, going down 3-2.

That result was followed by another defeat but this time in the Carabao Cup, a 3-0 loss to Swansea City.

There were three goals in almost as many minutes at the weekend, as Stoke went 1-0 and 2-1 up, with John Swift scoring in between.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

Reading’s John Swift celebrates after scoring during the opening-day defeat at Stoke City

He will again be one of the key men for Reading this season, as he regularly impresses from the engine room at the Madejski – now Select Car Leasing – Stadium.

He is in a more advanced position, playing as a No.10 in behind a lone striker, with Veljko Paunovic often going with a 4-2-3-1 formation.

Swift is a bit of a doubt for the game at the weekend, having missed the cup clash with the Swans.

Ovie Ejaria is another who has been absent and could be in line to return, with Lucas Joao dislocating his shoulder but still a possibility.

They will need all of the depth available to them as they have made no new signings this summer.

Reading are currently under a transfer embargo due to a loan from the EFL and Financial Fair Play has never been too far away from the lips of those connected with the Royals.

It is a good thing, then, that there is a bit of stability at the club.

Paunovic is going into his second full season at the club.

He had an impressive debut campaign too, guiding Reading to a seventh-placed finish in the Championship.

They were high-fliers at one point but faded away towards the end of the season, in the end being seven points off the pace.

But a good league position last time, the same manager and the same players is not a bad recipe for success.

There have been a couple of changes, though.

Omar Richards left for Bayern Munich and Michael Olise departed for Crystal Palace.

The latter was one of the brightest young talents in the division last season so someone stepping up from within to replace the creative spark is important.

Another change is defending set-pieces, according to the Royals’ boss.

Potentially something that North End could exploit, Paunovic has been frustrated in that area so far and wants a quick improvement.

He said: “Last season we didn’t concede goals from the first contact from corners.

“But we have conceded a few that way already this season.

“That is something we have to improve – we have to improve defensively overall, we have conceded too many goals in pre-season and in the season so far.

“That is something that we were very strong at last season. So we are aware of the issue.

“It is something we need to address and immediately improve.”