Tomorrow, Pompey host Reading’s under 23 team in the Checkatrade Trophy as they look to bounce back from a 1-2 defeat at the hands of Doncaster Rovers. It is unlikely that the Blues will take the game too seriously and I am expecting eleven changes to be made for the match. Realistically, only a tiny section of the Pompey supporters care remot lay about the outcome of the match and would much rather see game time being given to some of the home-grown academy products.

The opposition:

Recent form:
The Royals have won three of their last five matches, most recently against Birmingham’s under 23 team. That run also included a 3-1 defeat to Pompey’s South Coast rivals, Southampton.

One to watch:
My information about Reading’s under 23 team is very limited as very few of them have any Football League experience, but they have a familiar name in their ranks in Harry Cardwell. Although I am not aware of any of his real-life achievements, he was a star performer in my promotion winning Havant & Waterlooville side when I brought him in on loan in Football Manager!

Tactics:
I won’t pretend to know anything about how the Royals set up, but it is fairly likely they will play in a 4-2-3-1 formation at Fratton Park, as that seems the general trend in English football at the moment.

We’ve seen you before…:
There are no ex-Pompey players in the Reading squad, but Pompey currently have Dominic Hyam on loan from Reading u23s, so that is some sort of connection. I’m not sure whether he will be allowed to feature in the match.

Pompey:

Recent form:
Although Pompey have just lost two matches in a row, form really doesn’t come into tomorrow match as an entirely different crop of players will line up for the Blues.

Tactics:
I’ll admit, this is a bit of a shot in the dark. I am certain that Cook will make wholesale changes to his side; the only question is whether he will use a normal squad rotation policy or try to undermine the competition altogether. He will either simply pick all the fringe players to give them match minutes, or he will play a considerably weakened side which would look at home in the under 21 league. If he opts for a simple rotation policy this is the starting eleven I think he will pick:

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However, if he decides to play the youth team, this is more likely to be the starting lineup:

 

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Predictions:

Score prediction:
Unfortunately, Reading are likely to simply be too strong for a weakened Blues team and the best result Pompey fans can hope for is a narrow defeat. I’m predicting a 4-1 thrashing in the Royals’ favour.

Man of the Match prediction:
I’m expecting Adam Buxton to make his long-awaited return from injury at right-back, and think he could be Pompey’s star performer tomorrow evening. The right-back has only made one first team appearance in the EFL Cup this season and will be looking to make a lasting impression on the Pompey management.

First goalscorer:
Michael Smith scored a hat trick in the first group game of this competition against Yeovil and I have a feeling he will continue his scoring form against Reading. His physicality up front will be something that the young Royals defenders seldom come up against in youth team matches so he could cause major problems. However, I can’t see it making much difference to the scoreline and Pompey can expect a heavy defeat.

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