Reading are sweating on the fitness of Tiago Ilori as they prepare for a tricky trip to Aston Villa on Saturday (3pm).
In a battle of the past two defeated play-off finalists, Villa have undoubtedly responded better to the loss than the Royals did, currently unbeaten this season.
Steve Bruce’s men have eight points from their four league games so far after twice battling back to earn a last-gasp 2-2 draw against Brentford on Wednesday night.
And Paul Clement will have to make a late call on whether centre-back Ilori will be fit to be involved following a thigh injury, with the focus heightened after Paul McShane conceded two penalties in the midweek 2-2 draw at Blackburn.
Both sides drew 2-2 in midweek but in contrasting circumstances.
Reading led 2-0 at half-time at Ewood Park through a Jon Dadi Bodvarsson brace, only for two second-half Charlie Mulgrew penalties to earn the hosts a share of the spoils.
That leaves Clement’s men on just one point from their four league games and just two wins in the 12 Championship matches he’s managed since joining Reading last season.
Villa began the season with back-to-back wins but have drawn their last two games, 1-1 at 10-man Ipswich before the midweek 2-2 against Brentford with Jonathan Kodjia scoring all three goals for the Villans.
Fans who have travelled up to Villa Park in the past two years have returned with mixed feelings.
April’s midweek fixture was one to forget as Dave Edwards was sent off in a 3-0 defeat, but the previous season saw Joseph Mendes bag twice in a 3-1 win.
In between that, Reading beat Villa 2-1 at the Mad Stad just over a year ago thanks to Mo Barrow’s winner, but those two recent wins are among just four the Royals have ever managed in the 23 meetings between these sides.
Aside from waiting on Ilori, Reading’s squad is looking in decent health.
Both Mo Barrow and Sone Aluko made their returns in midweek meaning Clement has options as to who to involve for the trip to the Midlands.
There are still a number of players absent with Chris Gunter, Garath McCleary, Jordan Obita, Callum Harriott and Dave Edwards all unlikely to return.
As for Villa, they are again without Keinan Davis and Scott Hogan while Alan Hutton will be assessed after breaking his nose. New signing Anwar El Ghazi could be involved but potential deals for Yannick Bolasie and Tammy Abraham have not been concluded in time.
Unsurprisingly, Reading head to Villa Park as the underdogs. The bookies are offering 5/1 for the visitors to pick up their first win of the league campaign while Villa are available at 6/10. The draw is priced at 13/5.
Jon Dadi Bodvarsson bagged a brace at Ewood Park on Wednesday and he is available at 25/1 to repeat the feat on Saturday.
What they said
Steve Bruce says Reading are a completely different proposition to this time last year.
“They’re in change they’ve gone from totally different ends of the scale really from where they were with Jaap Stam,” he said.
“From open and expansive and passing and the way they went about it.
“To be fair under Jaap they nearly got out of the division.
“Now they’ve gone with Paul who, the other night, played a 4-4-2 formation.
“They’ve gone a bit more rigid, a bit more solid.
“Defensively they’ve changed so a typical Championship game from one challenge of Brentford to another challenge of Reading.
“I think that’s the beauty of the Championship, different styles, and Reading have gone through that different style under Paul so it will be a difficult game.”
And Clement is expecting a difficult afternoon, but insists Reading will go to Villa with belief.
“It is going to be a really tough game, but we’re going to go there with belief and with the aim of getting something out of the game,” he said.
“We’ll really try to win. If we don’t, we’ll try not to lose it and get at least another point on the board.
“It’s a tough game, but every game is so tough.
“I’m sure they won’t be expecting an easy ride from us either. It’s a hard game for us and a hard game for them.”