Mark Bowen takes his side to Stoke tomorrow needing a win.

The Royals have only managed to win one of  their last five games – and need to start picking up results quickly ahead of the festive period.

Here are the key issues that the manager will need to consider ahead of the trip.

Injuries begin piling up

The main issue facing Mark Bowen ahead of Saturday’s game is the ever-increasing injury list.

George Puscas picked up a shoulder injury in the game against Barnsley on Wednesday evening, with defenders Jordan Obita and Liam Moore both struggling after the game.

Add into the mix that Andy Yiadom has been ruled out for six weeks with a knee injury, the problems have mounted quickly for Bowen.

With Reading’s dip in form, the players who come into the side on Saturday do have a massive chance to stake their claim for a starting berth with a good performance.

Michael Morrison

It has not been a good week for Michael Morrison. He was very unlucky last week at home to his former side Birmingham City, deflecting an effort beyond a helpless Rafael in the Royals goal.

On Wednesday however, it was not luck that led to Barnsley’s goal. Morrison’s error proved crucial as Reading could only scrape a draw at the divisions bottom side.

Morrison has looked like a man whose confidence has taken a real hit recently and it’s up to him to put things right and quickly, starting on Saturday should he be selected.

Mark Bowen will need to ensure that Morrison is in a good frame of mind and has put the last two games behind him.

Reliance on Ovie in midfield

Against Barnsley, I felt that Ovie Ejaria tried to do too much in the middle of the park. He showed his class on a number of occasions, twisting and turning beyond onrushing defenders, but he did also find himself being crowded off the ball more often than we have previously seen.

More needs to be done in the middle of the pitch to support Ejaria’s ability as all to often he was left with little alternative than to force the issue himself against Barnsley.

The implications of defeat

Reading still hold a five-point advantage over 22nd place side and Saturday’s opponents Stoke City, so to say the Royals are embroiled in a relegation battle at this point for me seems premature.

However, a defeat on Saturday would see the gap between Reading and the drop zone dramatically cut.

Mark Bowen will be all to aware of the implications a defeat could have on the mentality of both his players and the fans.