We are 25 matches into the 2013-2014 Sky Bet Championship season. Bolton Wanderers and Reading FC are two clubs with aspirations to return to the Premier League sooner rather than later. So let's take a look at how the two compare at this point in the season.
Reading are seventh, just one point off the final playoff spot. They have won ten matches, drawn eight, and lost seven, which has earned them a grand total of 38 points. Bolton are 18th, seven points above the relegation zone. They have won six, drawn ten, and lost nine, which has earned them 28 points. That said, Bolton are also only eleven points off the final playoff spot. The Lancashire club actually made up a bigger deficit last season, before ultimately missing out on sixth position.
Reading have a goal differential of plus-three. They have scored 32 goals while allowing 29. The 32 scored is tenth in the league, the 29 allowed is tied for eighth. So they are looking every bit a top ten side. Bolton have scored 30 goals while allowing 35. The scoring is not bad, middle of the pack really, but the defending, despite (claimed) recent improvement, is bottom six.
Jermaine Beckford has picked up an injury for Bolton. It is his hamstring/gluteal muscle, and he will be out for three weeks or so. That's a shame, a club never wants to lose their leading goalscorer, but it is a short-term loss that the Trotters can cope with. Craig Davies makes a timely return from injury, and I suspect he will be in the shop window for the next few weeks.
Of much more immediate concern is the back line. Ever since first choice left back Marc Tierney got injured early in the season, the defensive allignment has had to shift about. We know our best central defensive pairing is Tim Ream and Matt Mills, but we can't play them together. Why? Because Tim Ream is the closest thing we have to a left back. That means Zat Knight has to start. Our erstwhile captain actually had a decent match last week, but it is not a situation we want to deal with for much longer.
Adam Bogdan has returned to fitness, and he will be on the bench Saturday, at least that is what Dougie Freedman said at his Thursday press conference. Keep in mind he said at the previous week's press conference that he would not continue using the 4-4-2 formation. Make of it what you will. With Beckford out there will be at least one change to the starting XI. Mark Davies started the last match, so Andre Mortiz is likely to start this one, if form holds. Jay Spearing also started last time, although he was poor. Considering Medo Kamara's Man of The Match performance the week before, we could see a change there. Whether Chris Eagles or Chung-Yong Lee starts (or both) is anyone's guess. There has not been any sort of pattern to the winger choices this season, which makes them almost impossible to predict. Rob Hall didn't even make the bench for our last match, and yet I wouldn't be surprised if he started against Reading.
Bolton do actually have more wins on their travels than at the Reebok, so it is a realistic chance to pick up points. I expect them to get a result. Maybe it will be a draw, maybe a win, but I do not see the Wanderers losing this weekend.