Reading v Fulham: cavalier Cottagers

Johansen has class –

On the evidence of last season – but more specifically last week – Fulham like their attacking football.

They were a joy to watch in the first half of their 1-1 opening day draw with Norwich City. The Cottagers had a speedy front trio of Neeskens Kebano and Sone Aluko either side of Floyd Ayite, the latter’s cross deflected home for the opener.

Stefan Johansen played some excellent forward passes to the trio while Tom Cairney pulled the strings, but there was also a Kevin McDonald-shaped hole in midfield. Oliver Norwood, supposedly replacing the ex-Wolves man out with a calf-injury, passed the ball well but lacked physicality which hindered the Whites defensively. Norwich exploited that with their attacks through the middle of the pitch, especially in the second half when Nelson Oliveira levelled.

The question is whether Reading have the audacity to do the same as the Canaries. The Royals are without the injured Garath McCleary, who is normally the one player willing to run quickly with the ball in tight areas. Indeed, the Royals squad looks threadbare right now.

Up top, the powerful Yann Kermorgant is out injured and Jon Dadi Bodvarsson is only just recovering. Joseph Mendes, a speedier option, toiled in the midweek cup win over Gillingham and was taken off at half-time. Further back, Jaap Stam could be without centre-back Paul McShane and holding midfielder Joey Van Den Berg, who provide leadership and physicality respectively.

Tyler Blackett is yet to convince at left-back. Unless his place is taken by youngster Omar Richards or Jordan Obita returns from injury, he could struggle defensively against Fulham’s right-sided combination of Aluko and Ryan Fredericks.

The one positive of Reading’s start has been Liam Kelly’s brace against Gillingham – the first an impressive curler – while Modou Barrow made an impact from the bench. Still, they may not have enough to stop the cavalier Cottagers.

The Football Lab’s Verdict: 1-3

Other Predictions: