The Owls travelled to the Madjeski stadium back in November under then head coach Carlos Carvalhal, a goal-less draw was the outcome of that fixture in the Sky Bet league Championship.
A new brand of Sheffield Wednesday head into this game undefeated under recently appointed manager Jos Luhukay. The so called Dutch ‘disciplinarian’ has already stamped his authority on the game by re-shuffling the Owls formation and bringing in fresh faces from the youth set-up.
This week I had the opportunity to speak to one of my friends and colleagues from the Championship Round Table Podcast @ChampionshipPod to discuss the upcoming fixture.
Simeon Pickup is a Reading fan and the editor of The Tilehurst End. Below are my questions and his thoughts ahead of the game.
On the face of it, playing away at Hillsborough is never an easy game, but your struggles for form this season - similar to ours in some ways - have given me hope that we’ll get a result. Both of us have had disappointing campaigns so far, despite a strong play-off finish last season, so it’s perhaps mildly ironic to see us drawn to face each other in the FA Cup.'
Reading have been struggling of late in the Championship, however, an FA Cup tie means all form and league expectations go out of the window, do you expect Reading to step up a gear for this contest? 'Frankly, no. Based on the four cup campaigns he’s had at Reading so far (League Cup x2, FA Cup x2 this season and last), there’s little evidence to suggest that Jaap Stam is good at enthusing his team ahead of a cup game. In the three cup matches he’s lost as Reading manager (Arsenal away, League Cup; Man United away, FA Cup; Swansea City home, League Cup), the side haven’t taken their performances up a gear to properly give a good account of themselves against Premier League opposition.
That said, in the one cup fixture we’ve had under Stam that’s vaguely similar to the one coming on Friday (Brighton away in the League Cup last season), the Royals put on an excellent performance to see off a team that would be automatically promoted at the end of the season.
We’ve seen two very different performances in the two games against Stevenage in this year’s third round - one a bit of a horror show at the Lamex, before a competent, comfortable 3-0 win in the replay. Who knows what Reading side will turn up against Sheffield Wednesday, but I’d guess it’ll be a mixture of those two.'
Would you like Reading to go on a cup run, or, dare I say it, are Reading caught up in a relegation fight and Championship survival is now a priority? 'In recent years we’ve tended to do well when we mix the two! Our FA Cup run in 2010, coming the same season as a relegation fight (albeit for only half a campaign), was the first time we’d got to the quarter finals of the competition since 1927! Similarly, we got all the way to the semi-finals in 2015 but managed a paltry 19th place in the league, with quarter-finals and 17th coming in 2016.
Conversely, when Reading have done really well in the league (first in 2012, third in 2017), we’ve gone out of the FA Cup at the first time of asking. It’s a funny old game, isn’t it?
Even if I had to throw that history book out of the window and assume that record won’t apply this season, I still think we can have our cake and eat it. Cup runs can spur on a struggling team, rather than ‘distracting’ them, so doing well on two fronts is a logical aim for us.
If you held a gun to my head and insisted on us having one or the other, avoiding relegation will always be the priority - even if the alternative were winning the FA Cup outright, winning the Europa League the following year and the Champions League after that. Slipping into the third tier would ruin this club - we can’t risk it.'
Do you expect Reading to field a strong or weakened side? 'A mixture of the two probably. Jaap Stam will be after a win on Friday, that’s for sure, but he’ll have one eye on the rearranged game at Burton the following Tuesday night. They may be 24th in the Championship, but if they beat us they’ll be just two points behind us - it’s a huge game in our season.'
Under new manager Jos Luhukay, Sheffield Wednesday are yet to concede a goal in all three of his games in charge, does this concern you? 'Yes, very much so. I read a piece in the Sheffield Star about how Luhukay likes to set his teams up so that they’re hard to beat, and those three clean sheets in his first few games certainly suggests he’s had an immediate impact. Worryingly, we’ve only scored in two of our last seven games, so going up against a conservative manager like Luhukay won’t give us a good opportunity to change that. '
How do you see the match going and what is your score prediction? 'You haven’t been conceding many goals recently but neither have we - the biggest problem for both sides will be finding the net. Because of that, I expect it to be a tight, cagey campaign - probably pretty dull for large spells - but you’ll edge it thanks to home advantage and the ‘new manager bounce’. Owls 1-0 Royals.'
I would like to take this opportunity to thank Simeon for taking time out to answer these questions. You can tweet Simeon, or follow him @BucksRoyal