High-flying Swansea look to cement their automatic promotion challenge with victory over top-six contenders Reading on Wednesday. Mark O'Haire shares his views.
"At the Liberty Stadium, eight of 10 Swans’ fixtures have featured fewer than three goals as Steve Cooper’s men have kept seven shutouts, conceding just four goals in total"
Swansea v Reading
Wednesday December 30, 20:00
Live on Sky Sports
Swansea seal Boxing Day success
Swansea climbed into the Championship's automatic promotion places, as goals from Andre Ayew and Jamal Lowe gave the Welsh club a 2-0 win at QPR on Boxing Day. Leading scorer Ayew headed into an empty net to put Steve Cooper's team ahead at the end of the first half, before Lowe completed a clinical counter early in the second period to decide matters.
Once ahead, the Swans never looked like relinquishing control as they enhanced an already astonishing defensive record: Cooper's troops have now kept 12 Championship clean sheets this term, conceding only 12 times. What's more, Swansea have emerged victorious in 11 of 12 league fixtures when scoring the first goal, highlighting their superb game management.
Speaking post-match, Cooper said: "We are really pleased with the win. I thought it was a really good performance again and we were good for the win. We were very professional with how we went about it and the boys deserve a lot of credit." Swansea were unchanged in the capital but have been boosted by the returns of George Byers and Jordon Garrick.
Reading earn welcome win
Reading moved back into the Championship play-off places after two first-half goals were enough to beat Luton 2-1 at the Madejski Stadium on Boxing Day. Tom McIntyre's impressive sweeping left-footed volley from Sone Aluko's outswinging corner gave the Royals an early lead and Alfa Semedo made it 2-0 late in the half with his first Reading goal.
The Hatters set-up a nervous finale when pulling a goal back in the final minute where Royals goalkeeper Rafael Cabral could perhaps have done better to keep it out, but the Berkshire boys saw the contest out to record only a fourth league success in 13 to cement their position inside the top-six, much to head coach Veljko Paunovic's delight.
Speaking post-match, Paunovic said: "I think the guys did a fantastic job in the first half, very clinical in our approach, very similar to how we played in the beginning of the season when we started to build our identity and we learned how efficient it is for us, especially when we score first. In the second half we wanted to have a little bit more ball possession and create more opportunities, it didn't happen, but we at least knew how to defend the result."
Swansea are unbeaten in 12 league meetings with Reading since 2008, sealing top honours on seven occasions, including a thumping 4-1 success when the duo last crossed swords in July (W7-D5-L0). The Swans are also unbeaten in six home contests against the Royals since a 2001 match-up when the two teams were facing-off in the third-tier (W3-D3-L0).
Swansea 2.0421/20 are amongst the leading pack having been beaten only four times in their opening 21 outings (W11-D6-L4). Steve Cooper's troops' have proven to be rock-solid competitors, giving few opportunities away, and shipping multiple goals in only three fixtures. However, the hosts have returned just W2-D3-L2 against top-10 rivals.
Reading 3.8014/5 made a club-record-breaking start to the season (W7-D1-L0) before progress began to stall. Boxing Day's triumph was only the fourth secured in the Royal's past 14 fixtures (W4-D3-L7), a sequence that includes collecting five points from a possible 18 on their travels (W1-D2-L3). Veljko Paunovic's men have W1-D1-L4 against the top-eight.
Only three Championship clubs are seeing fewer goals per-game than Swansea's total of 1.76 as a huge 18/21 (86%) matches have produced Under 2.5 Goals> 1.654/6. At the Liberty Stadium, eight of 10 Swans' fixtures have featured fewer than three goals as Steve Cooper's men have kept seven shutouts, conceding just four goals in total.
In contrast, Reading's outings are amongst the division's most goal-heavy - 12/21 (57%) of the Royals encounters have covered the Over 2.5 Goals 2.305/4 line with the Berkshire club scoring in 18 of those contests. Even so, the visitors remain without leading marksmen Lucas Joao and Yakou Meite, and are largely outperforming ordinary attacking data.
With that in mind, I'm happy to side with Swansea on Wednesday night. Head to the Same Game Multi and we can support Swansea Double Chance and Under 2.5 Goals at 1.9520/21. it's a selection that's already paid out in eight of the Swans' 10 home ties, as well as 16 of the Welsh outfit's 21 tussles across all venues in 2020/21.
Mark's 2020/21 Profit/Loss
Staked: 69.00 pts
Returned: 73.86 pts
P/L: +4.86 pts