Here are the five key issuers facing Mark Bowen ahead of Saturday’s clash with Birmingham City at the Madejski Stadium.

Who will start up front?

With Sam Baldock returning to full fitness having missed the last two games with injury, Mark Bowen could well throw him back into the mix from the start.

George Puscas will be a guaranteed starter after his heroics last week, you would have thought. With Meite, Loader, Baldock and Joao all vying for a starting berth against Birmingham, it’ll be interesting to see who Bowen goes for.

I think Baldock has looked very good under Bowen – he arguably appears to suit the style of play best of all Reading’s forwards. I cannot foresee Puscas not starting after last weekend and would be surprised to see anyone other than Baldock partner him.

The formation

After a disappointing first half performance at the DW Stadium, Mark Bowen switched from a 5-3-2 formation to a more conventional 4-4-2.

You’d expect Bowen to revert to the 5-3-2 formation against Birmingham, especially if Ejaria returns as expected, but the dramatic turnaround last Saturday will surely have given Bowen something to think about.

Worries from crosses?

Reading have conceded three goals in their last three games, all of which coming from crosses into the box. Ollie Watkins’ goal for Brentford would have concerned Bowen, given the space he was afforded in the box.

Although Harrison’s goal for Leeds came with a huge helping hand via a deflection, Joe Garner’s for Wigan again will have frustrated the Reading boss – with his defence reacting slowly to the loose ball and allowing Garner to tap in.

Reading look much stronger defensively under Bowen, but concerns must remain following three consecutive goals conceded from crossing positions.

Keeping players fresh for the festive period

Between this weekend and the FA Cup tie against Blackpool, Reading will play six more times.

This period of the year is notoriously difficult for managers to get through unscathed and Mark Bowen will need to begin to think of squad rotation with eight games in 28 days looming.

Throw in the fact that Reading face another long away trip coming up on Tuesday night, minor adjustments may well be on the mind of Mark Bowen on Saturday.

New manager bounce?

This week, Birmingham City announced Pep Clotet had been appointed as head coach following 20 games as caretaker boss.

Although Clotet isn’t a new face at St Andrews, having overseen 20 games as caretaker boss, the Spaniard will want to begin his permanent tenure with a victory.

The visitors may well have a spring in their step following the announcement, and Clotet’s opposite number Mark Bowen will need to be wary of this.