It seems somewhat fitting that Charlton’s fixture following Simon Church’s submission for individual performance of the decade comes against his former club.
For it means attention, deservedly so, will increase on the man who does Gareth Bale’s running for him.
But there is a more serious element to the former Reading forward’s first league goal of the season than merely celebrating a target for harsh criticism delighting those who have struck by him with irrational support.
It reaffirms that confidence is not just high among Guy Luzon’s starting XI, but within Guy Luzon’s squad.
Regardless of the quality of opposition the Addicks faced on Tuesday, the 3-0 win over Blackpool was an excellent result. A rotated squad bouncing back from a rather unfortunate defeat to Blackburn that could have killed self-belief is massive.
Confidence, however, is also high in the Reading camp. The Royals may have disappointed in the league this season, but with Monday’s victory over Bradford seeing the club progress through to the FA Cup semi-final, their position in the Championship table has been ignored in favour of really weird pitch invasions.
Simon Church is happy. Charlton supporters are happy. Reading supporters are happy. Isn’t everything just really bloody marvellous?
Or at least that’s the case until the Addicks find some sort of barely believable way to suffer defeat at The Valley on Saturday.
LAST MEETING – READING 0-1 CHARLTON ATHLETIC
A disciplined, organised and determined display from Bob Peeters’ side earned them a deserved victory over a toothless Reading at the Madjeski Stadium.
In fact, such was the professional nature of Charlton’s performance, that talk of a promotion challenge that had been quelled after three games without a win returned.
Instead, the Addicks went onto embark on a 14-game winless run that cost Peeters his job and saw Luzon’s reign begin terribly.
Igor Vetokele’s fantastic first-half header would be the last winning goal Charlton supporters would celebrate for over three months.
With the Royals a comfortable ten points from the Championship relegation zone, and having a game in hand on those below them, it’s fair to say their attentions are elsewhere.
It might not be for another month, but the league fixtures Reading must fulfil before their trip to Wembley for the FA Cup Semi-Final must surely be something of a nuisance for the club’s supporters.
Regardless, Steve Clarke’s side have picked up a handful of respectable results since the start of their cup exploits, including away victories at Wolves and Ipswich, which show they have the capability to beat any side in this division.
And with the Arsenal clash a month away, it would be amiss of Reading to attempt to build some momentum through their league results beforehand.
After a sluggish performance in defeat to Blackburn at the weekend, compounded by comical if not criminal individual errors, the Addicks responded in pleasing fashion with a three goal victory over Blackpool in midweek.
While the opposition may not have been the strongest, the result remained just as impressive. Previously, the character and depth of this Charlton side could be heavily and justifiably questioned. Now, it would seem, it can only be praised.
And with the Addicks boasting a record of six wins from their last eight matches, it’s fair to say they remain one of the division’s most feared sides at the moment.
The Royals could be without influential midfielder Nathaniel Chalobah after the Chelsea loanee picked up an injury in the cup victory over Bradford.
Chalobah has been in excellent form since joining Reading in January, but Clarke is unlikely to risk him should his fitness not be 100% with the semi-final somewhere on the horizon.
But Clarke has reaffirmed his desire to treat the league games before their trip to Wembley with professionalism. While a host of youngsters were brought in for last weekend’s defeat to Watford, with the quarter-final replay played on Monday, Reading should field their strongest XI possible at The Valley.
Following impressive performances by those brought into the side to allow others to rest in midweek, Guy Luzon has some decisions to make.
The easiest one comes at the back, where the excellent Joe Gomez should continue in place of Tal Ben Haim, who looked extremely uncomfortable in the defeat to Blackburn. But there is uncertainty over who will start in a number of other positions.
After a string of disappointing displays, justified by his penalty-scoring exploits, Yoni Buyens has long deserved to spend some time on the bench, and Alou Diarra might well keep his place, while a first home start for Chris Eagles, who scored his second Charlton goal at Blackpool, would be deserved were it not harsh to keep Frederic Bulot out of the side for a second game.
Up top, it’s more than likely that Igor Vetokele will come back into the side and be reunited with strike partner Tony Watt, but Church’s performance and goal in midweek has strengthened the argument that he deserves to play a more prominent role in the side on a consistent basis. Either way, it’s nice to have options.
The Addicks, however, remain without the injured Johnnie Jackson, Rhoys Wiggins and Franck ‘call home, mate, just let us know you’re safe’ Moussa.
KEY BATTLE – HALTING READING’S MOMENTUM
Charlton supporters know as well as any the mix of emotions the FA Cup can provide. The trip to the blue and white half of Sheffield was simply unforgettable; the trip to the other half unforgettable for all the wrong reason.
And after Reading’s FA Cup quarter-final replay win over Bradford on Monday, players and half-hearted pitch-invading supporters will come into this one on a huge high.
That could potentially result in one of two things.
The first being that the Royals start the game at such a pace and tempo as a result of the emotions from the cup victory that the Addicks are blown away, and unable to get back into the game.
On the other hand, it may be the case that Clarke’s side are overconfident, and suffer from complacency, allowing Charlton to take advantage should they perform professionally.
Regardless, there’s a bubble that needs bursting if the Addicks are to have a slightly less difficult afternoon that the one they did against another team enjoying a FA Cup run last weekend.
For both sides, scoring early is crucial.
The result is largely an irrelevance. For whatever the scoreline come full-time, Charlton will still have Simon Church, and will therefore be the real winner. We’ll win on the pitch, too. Charlton Athletic 2-0 Reading.