Michael O’Neill has had a rare opportunity to name an unchanged Stoke City starting XI for a third game in a row.
O’Neill’s hand has been forced by fixture congestion since play resumed in June but he heads to Reading today knowing that there is a two-week international break after full-time.
So he has gone with the same side that beat Rotherham last weekend and lost 3-2 at Watford in mid-week, starting with a 4-2-3-1.
Nathan Collins (hamstring) is fit enough to return to the bench.
John Obi Mikel and Jordan Thompson continue in central midfield with James McClean and Tyrese Campbell flanking Nick Powell and Steven Fletcher.
Mike Pejic, in his column for StokeonTrentLive, said: “I have liked the balance of the Stoke side in the last couple of games. That personnel in that 4-2-3-1 shape is probably the best team Michael O’Neill can put out at the moment.
“It releases James McClean and Tyrese Campbell in their wide roles. That front four, with Nick Powell tucked in with Steven Fletcher, is a nice blend.
“The big question is whether to play two or three in central midfield when Sam Clucas returns and that will depend on the strength of the opposition in that area.”
Reading: Rafael, Esteves, Richards, Gibson, Morrison, Laurent, Semedo, Yiadom, Puscas, Joao. Subs: Southwood, McIntyre, Watson, Aluko, Tetek, Olise, Baldock.
Stoke: Gunn, Smith, Fox, Souttar, Batth, Mikel, Thompson, Campbell, Powell, McClean, Fletcher. Subs: Nna Noukeu, Ince, Vokes, Brown, Oakley-Boothe, Tymon, Collins.