Birmingham City vs Reading preview: Both sides looking to bounce back after FA Cup heartbreak
Photo by Michel Steele via Getty images

Reading travel to the Midlands to take on Birmingham City looking to bounce back after extra-time heartbreak in the FA Cup.

A goal in extra-time from ex-Royal  and now Sheffield United striker Billy Sharp eliminated Mark Bowen's side on Tuesday evening.

The task for the Berkshire side is to bounce back from the disappointment of FA Cup elimination, and their first chance of doing this is on Saturday against Pep Clotet's Birmingham City side who also lost their FA Cup fifth round game in midweek, but against Leicester City.

Both sides come into this game winless in their last five games in all competitions.

The last win for the Blues came on February 11 in the 1-0 success over relegation threatened Barnsley.

A win for Clotet's side will move them five points clear of Reading who are currently sat in 16th place. 

However, if Reading were to pick up the win in this contest, then they would leapfrog the midlands club in the Championship table. 

Match Information

What day is the game taking place?: Saturday March 7. 

What time is kick-off?: 15:00 GMT (3pm)

Where is the game taking place?: St Andrews Stadium (Birmingham) 

Who is the referee for the game?: Andy Davies

Is the game being televised on TV?: no 

Is Vavel covering the match?: Danyal Khan will be at the match for Vavel.

Team News

Jude Bellingham was not involved against Leicester during the week due to fatigue, but the 16-year-old is set to return to the Birmingham squad for this weekend's contest.

Clotet shuffled his pack for the clash with the Foxes, but there are expected to be changes for this match, with Gary Gardner being tipped to return to the middle of the park.

Scott Hogan and Lukas Jutkiewicz should continue as the front two, but Jeremie Bela, Josh McEachran, Jacques Maghoma and David Stockdale are still on the treatment table.

As for Reading, Chris Gunter, Lucas Boye, Tom McIntyre and Lucas Joao remain on the sidelines.

Bowen's side did not pick up any fresh concerns from their clash with Sheffield United, though, and there are not expected to be many changes from the match against the Blades.

George Puscas was again on the scoresheet against Chris Wilder's side and should again lead the line, although Pele is pushing for a spot in midfield having recovered from injury.

Liam Moore may return to the starting line-up after missing the last two game for the Royals.

Predicted starting XI's

Birmingham's predicted XI: Camp; Colin, Roberts, Dean, Pedersen; Bellingham, Gardner, Sunjic, Crowley; Hogan, Jutkiewicz.

Reading's predicted XI: Rafael; Yiadom, Miazga, Morrison, Obita; Meite, Rinomhota, Swift, Ejaria, Olise; Puscas.

Manager Quotes

Pep Clotet:

The Blues boss sees his sides opponents Reading as a very 'experienced' side as he previews the game on Saturday.

Clotet said: "It is a team that has experience in certain areas, especially at the back, quality in the middle and dangerous options up front.

"They have physicality and speed up front as well as talent. I think it is going to be a very competitive game, we need to keep competing the way we have been doing.

The Spaniard is hoping his side will continue to take the game to their opponents and cause an attacking threat this weekend:

"Keep being with the mentality we have, when we have the ball and attack, we want to go forward, we are valuing attacks more than the possession number.

"It’s important for us to play forward and put as much as possible stress to them – and when we don’t have the ball make sure we contain all those strengths that they have."

Mark Bowen:

Royals boss Mark Bowen has highlighted this game as a game where he wants to see a reaction from his side after the Sheffield United loss.

Bowen said: "I'll keep putting demands on the players. The play-offs are now highly unlikely but they're not impossible.

"We have to set ourselves goals now - we have to make sure we're more consistent and that goes with getting higher in the table.

The Reading boss is determined not to let the season fizzle out, with his side currently 16th in the table:

"If and when we get in the top half we'll aim for the top 10 so we'll see where we go.

"But we can't let the season meander on as if nothing matters because it does.

"Saturday's game away at Birmingham to all of us is as important as tonight's game. We have to make sure we recover well and are ready mentally and physically."

Head to Head 

These two sides have met 40 times in all competitions over the years with the midlands club edging the head to head.

Birmingham have beaten the Royals on 15 occasions in all competitions with the most recent coming earlier this season as the Blues beat Reading 3-2 at the Madejski Stadium. 

The Royals have beaten the home side on Saturday on 13 occasions over the years, and there have been 12 draws between these two sides. 

Players to watch 

Birmingham City: Scott Hogan 

The 27-year-old striker has hit the ground running since making the January transfer from bitter rivals Aston Villa.

Hogan has already scored nine Championship goals since moving to Birmingham City and will be looking to add to his tally against Reading this weekend.

The fact that the Irish striker has been at the club for just over two months and is already the second highest scorer for the club this season (behind fellow striker Lukas Jutkiewicz) demonstrates how much of a positive impact the ex- Villa and Brentford striker has had on the club so far. 

Reading: George Puscas

Since George Puscas joined Reading last summer, a rivalry has formed between these two clubs.

Birmingham and Reading were the two clubs who went head to head for the Romanian striker, but Puscas supposedly decided to choose Reading as he saw the Royals having a better chance of being promoted to the Premier League compared to the midlands club. 

And the midlands club were the ones who were laughing at the start of the season due to the fact that Puscas really struggled to hit the ground running at Reading.

However, the Romanian has recently found some brilliant form and as a result is top scorer for the Royals this season alongside Yakou Meite (11). 

Reading: Michael Morrison 

The biggest side story of the game is arguably the return of Michael Morrison to St Andrews.

Reading signed the ex-Birmingham captain for free in the summer after his Birmingham contract ran out.

And since then he has been a regular starter in the back-line for the Royals. 

But it will be interesting to see if he can handle the emotion of returning to his ex-club.

Betting Odds

Bet 365 have made Birmingham favourites to pick up the three points from this match, with a win for the home side being priced at 21/20. A draw between these two sides is being priced at 5/2. And a Reading away win on the weekend is being priced at 13/5. 

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