Written by Sam Greasley-Machin (@SG_Machin)
AFC Bournemouth travel to the Madejski Stadium this Friday in a top-six clash with Reading, in what is shaping up to be a six-pointer even at this stage of the Championship season in January.
Of course, the inaugural month of the year brings the chaos of the transfer window, during which Joshua King has been linked with a move away from the Vitality Stadium.
Speaking at the pre-match Reading press conference, the Cherries boss, Jason Tindall, was hopeful of keeping the Norwegian international. He said: “He’s totally committed to the football club as his performance showed. And you know, if we can keep Josh here, then he will certainly be a big player for us in the second half of the season.”
Friday’s match could be a huge fixture over the course of the campaign as the Cherries occupy the fourth spot currently and a win would see them go six points clear of Middlesbrough in seventh.
Meaning those players that have been sidelined in the previous fixture could be vital in gaining a result with Chris Mepham and Junior Stanislas set to return.
Tindall said: “Chris Mepham trained again this morning and came through the training session fine. So that’d be great to have Chris back available.
“The situation is far better than we initially thought for Junior. He trained the last four or five days and will be one that’ll be available for contention tomorrow.”
However, the Bournemouth boss was cautious that a few knocks have been picked up since their victory over Crawley in the FA Cup, and the Reading game coming too early as a result.
“One or two that picked up little knocks. That was assessed, yesterday, and again this morning. And we’ll just have to assess them tomorrow morning to see where they stand. And if they’re going to be available to be in contention for the game.”
While Tindall also confirmed Dan Gosling, who is out of contract in the summer and been linked with a move to Nottingham Forest, will be absent having picked up an illness.
Their opponents, on the other hand, are expected to be welcoming Yakou Meite and Andy Yiadom back from injury, and with the Royals one place ahead in the table, form certainly favours the Berkshire side – who have drawn two and won three in their last five league games.
In contrast, Bournemouth have lost three and picked up one draw and loss in their last five league fixtures, but the form doesn’t phase their manager.
He added: “Prior to the Derby game, I felt we were playing well. We lost a losing game and I thought we played well in that game. Derby was disappointing, but I was really pleased with our performance in the FA Cup against Crawley.
“We created so many good chances we looked a real threat every time we went forward. And it’s about now making sure we go to Reading and deliver performances good enough to win the game.”
Looking towards their opponents, Tindall is well aware of the threat the league’s best attacking trio in Lucas Joao, Michael Olise and Yakou Meite can bring (with a combined 38 goals and assist), along with the likes of John Swift and Ovie Ejaria.
“We are aware of Reading strengths. They are a very big team, a lot of good attacking players. They’ve got very creative players and they will chip in with goals.
“Joao is in fantastic form and a sort of talisman. But we’re aware of their strengths and it’s going to be a tough game. It is going to be a game where both teams are going to want to attack and both teams are going to want to score goals.
“As much as Reading have got some good attacking players, I’m sure there’ll be looking at us and thinking the same. So it’s about going out there and making sure we make sure that we are ready and doing what we need to do to win the game.”
In November, Bournemouth came out with a 4-2 victory, despite being 2-0 down at halftime, in what was a slump in form for Reading – who could go joint second with a win.
However, the Bournemouth gaffer isn’t surprised to see the Royals still battling in the top six, he added: “I’m not surprised. I think there’s been a lot of investment invested in the Reading squad over the past few seasons.
“They’re a good team with some very, very good individuals, individuals that will go on to earn a fantastic career and achieve good things. I certainly think that they’ll be there or thereabouts.”
The game kicks off at 8pm on Friday at the Madejski Stadium live on Sky Sports with coverage to follow on Nerve Sport.