Reading v Cardiff: Royals can hit Bluebirds early

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CHAMPIONSHIP specialist James O'Rourke (@JamesOR1) shares his thoughts on Sunday's showdown between Reading and recently-relegated Cardiff.

Reading v Cardiff | Sunday 18th August 2019, 12:00 | Sky Sports

Reading look to bounce back from two league defeats to open their season when welcoming Cardiff City on Sunday lunchtime, who themselves got the winning feeling back in dramatic style at home to Luton last weekend.

Jose Gomes recently added a flurry of new signings at the Madejski Stadium, and some of those are likely to need time on the training pitch to get up to speed with the rest of the squad having had a full pre-season under their belts. This means Royals supporters might need to wait a little longer to style the likes of Rafael and Ovie Ejaria on the pitch.

Cardiff saw their most recent signing Isaac Vassell made the biggest of impacts when coming off the bench late to head in the winner at the Cardiff City Stadium on his debut. Neil Warnock will now be hoping to achieve back-to-back wins, with their last away victory coming at Old Trafford on the final day of last season.

Reading must start strongly

Gomes was particularly critical of how his side performed in the first half at Hull last Saturday, and with good reasons. They found themselves 2-0 down early on, giving themselves a mountain to climb. They did eventually pull a goal back, and would hit the bar towards the end after a much improved second period. They went behind on the opening day to Sheffield Wednesday too. You just feel they need the first goal.

We’ve touched upon the fact that Reading have introduced many new signings recently. This led to several suggesting that they could now be dark horses for promotion. For that to happen, they ultimately need to get that first win under their belts to get their season going. On paper, Cardiff could be a tough ask, but they’ve certainly got every chance.

Football is never played on paper, but they really do have some talented players that really should soon see them pick up more points. Liam Moore is constantly linked with a move into the Premier League, whilst the likes of Lucas Joao and George Puscas recently joined for big fees. Ultimately, this is quite a young squad, so it is a surprise Gomes is freezing out the likes of Chris Gunter, Garath McCleary and Sam Baldock.

Nevertheless, it means players like Michael Morrison and Charlie Adam have key roles as some of the older statesman within the Reading ranks.

Cardiff are so Neil Warnock

Warnock has his critics but I for one have always been a big fan of his. He’s ultimately had many jobs across his lengthy managerial career, and for all that fans of those clubs he hasn’t cut the mustard at will get their points across, we cannot deny that he gets the Championship, and in a big way. He is something of a master at gaining promotion, and although he says this will be his last ever season, if he can get Cardiff up you just know he’ll stick around a bit longer.

Across their opening two games they have very much performed as you would expect a Neil Warnock team to do so. They’ve averaged 15 shots on goal in those matches, scoring two in them both. Only Leeds, Swansea and Middlesbrough have averaged more attempts across the first two weekends, so you know Cardiff will very much give it a go.

You can expect Cardiff to be involved in quite a few open matches this season. They do have some steel at the back with Sean Morrison and Aden Flint, plus Sol Bamba waiting in the wings, so they won’t lack for determination. However, they will come under periods of pressure purely because of their style of play, and against fast and tricky sides they could experience some problems. Wigan and Luton fall into that category, and probably Reading as well.

The betting angle

I can’t be having Cardiff at 11/10 for this game. To me, it does seem a little short, regardless of the fact Reading have lost two from two. They’ll get better, don’t worry about that, and this could be the sort of game they need to get them up and running.

Gomes will have drilled into his squad ever since the Hull game of the importance of starting strongly. I’d like to think that message will have been translated across to start seeing some results. I’ll back Reading at 7/5 (Betway) for them to score their first goal in the first half.

Whilst Cardiff have averaged 15 shots per game so far, Reading aren’t far behind on 13.5, so it really is just a case of taking their chances. I won’t go so far as to back them outright however, although I do think odds of 11/4 for any Championship team playing at home this season simply has to be considered.

The second and final play is a simple Both Teams To Score shout at 20/23 (Betfair). Cardiff conceded three within a 16-minute period on the opening day when losing at Wigan, so there is a vulnerability about them at times, whilst Reading have showcased such issues, too. Eight of the last 11 head to head has seen each side net a goal as well, so I’m happy to include.

Best Bets

Reading v Cardiff – Time of Reading's First Goal: First Half (7/5 Betway)

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