Another visit to Loftus Road and it's only the start of November... Aside from that 3-2 win against QPR in the Capital One Cup (let's not talk about the next round), the Royals' season has never really got started yet, as they still chase that elusive first win of the Premier League season. Queens Park Rangers find themselves in a similar position though, with manager Mark Hughes under severe pressure to deliver. Despite heavy investment, the other blue-and-white-hooped team in the PL find themselves rock bottom - the only other team without a win. This match could be the biggest of the season so far, for both teams, so here's your guide for what to expect.
Form Guide (all competitions, starting with most recent)
Reading: D (90 mins), D, L, D, D, W
QPR: L, D, L, L, L, L
As you might expect, it's not particularly pleasant reading for either team. The Royals have only won two matches this season, and both of those were in the Capital One Cup as they overcame first Peterborough then QPR 3-2. It seems to be a case of burnout for Reading - in all of those draws mentioned above in the form guide, they've led before being pegged back - 3 of those were half-time leads. In fact, the Fulham match last week was the only one in which they fell behind at any stage, twice coming back to snatch a point. It seems to work up until Reading have to defend a lead, at which point they simply lose control of the match, as shown by two dismal performances at home to Fulham and Arsenal in the last seven days. Even a 4-0 lead at home to Arsenal wasn't enough to see them through, and that will surely be preying on the mind of the Royals if they snatch a lead at Loftus Road.
Hughes' Rangers, meanwhile, just have problems getting points on the board. 5 losses in their last 6 were only broken up by a 1-1 draw at home to Everton, who played for half an hour with ten men. All of those losses have only come by the odd goal, though, showing that they're not whipping boys (it's safe to say that 5-0 shocker at home to Swansea on the first day of the season was a blip). Last time out QPR were perhaps unlucky to lose 1-0 at the Emirates to Arsenal, but a petulant sending-off for Stephane Mbia and a controversial goal helped to seal their fate. So whilst they are on a poor run of form, it's a lot closer than the guide would suggest. And as Reading know by now, the margins between success and failure this level are minuscule.
Head To Head
Advantage Royals. As mentioned above, a thrilling 3-2 win in the Capital One Cup boosted the confidence of McDermott's side, as Gorkss, Shorey and Pogrebnyak helped to sink the fake hoops. Reading were twice losing in the match, which will surely give them confidence to know they can bounce back if they fall behind. Just as in the last two matches, when they've been 2-1 and 3-2 down against Fulham then 5-4 down at home to the Gunners, the belief is there that the game is never up.
Before that 3-2 win, Loftus Road wasn't the happiest hunting ground for Reading in recent years - the previous two visits to West London have resulted in 4-1 and 3-1 defeats. QPR did the double over us in 2010/11 in their title-winning season, grabbing a 1-0 win at the Mad Stad. It was in the 2005/06 season that we last won in the League at Loftus, James Harper and Ivar Ingimarsson securing a 2-1 victory for the record-breaking Royals.
Somewhat of a crisis for Reading, as the central midfield department has been stretched to its limits just three months into the season. Danny Guthrie has either been dropped from the squad because of a bst-up with McDermott or picked up a thigh injury with an indefinite return date, depending on who you want to believe, so he definitely won't play any part in proceedings. Jem Karacan, meanwhile, picked up an injury against Liverpool and has been ruled out for about 6 weeks, leaving just Mikele Leigertwood and Jay Tabb as viable CM options for tomorrow. They won't have been helped by playing the full 120 in midweek against the Gunners either. Alex Pearce and Adam Le Fondre also won't feature prominently, as they played for the U21s on Friday. A contract dispute is keeping Pearce out of the side, causing yet more problems for McDermott's previously closely-knit squad.
The Arsenal match might have caused more problems than it solved with regards to "squad" players. All three strikers (Noel Hunt, Jason Roberts and Pavel Pogrebnyak) netted against the Gunners, so the trio will all believe they have solid shouts to start against Rangers. Meanwhile Hal Robson-Kanu and Garath McCleary both supplied crosses for goals against Arsenal and scored late-on against Fulham, so the wing is another position where we could see possible changes - Jimmy Kebe in particular could be on his toes. The back five is likely to remain the same as the Fulham match though, with Gorkss and Mariappa seemingly the preferred centre-back pairing for McDermott. Nicky Shorey has made the left-back position his own since coming in for Ian Harte, whilst Chris Gunter had a good game going forward but perhaps lacked in defence to fully secure his shirt for Sunday.
QPR are likely to name a similar side to the last two games. The only change between Everton and Arsenal was Shaun Wright-Phillips for Park Ji-Sung, who has a knee injury. Stephane Mbia then received his marching orders at the Emirates, so unless Park recovers in time, it could be Alejandro Faurlin who steps in to central midfield.
Reading (4-4-2): McCarthy; Cummings, Mariappa, Gorkss, Shorey; Kebe, Leigertwood, Tabb, McAnuff; Hunt, Roberts
QPR (4-4-2): Cesar; Bosingwa, Diakite, Nelsen, Traore; Wright-Phillips, Faurlin, Granero, Taarabt; Hoilett, Zamora
Michael Oliver was the fourth official on Tuesday and so bore witness to Reading's capitulation against Arsenal. The Royals felt aggrieved by some generous refereeing towards Arsenal, particularly with regards to extra-time and Laurent Koscielny staying on the pitch after some horrendous fouls, so perhaps he'll have noted those and might be a bit more generous than Kevin Friend.
Oliver last took charge of us in a 3-3 home draw with Norwich in 2010. So far this season he's reffed 8 games, showing 19 yellow cards and just 1 red.
QPR 17/20, Draw 13/5, Reading 18/5
The Tilehurst End Prediction
Goals, goals, goals. Both teams need a win and so will be all-out to ensure they grab that all-important first three points of the season. Whilst Reading's last five games (in 90 minutes) have seen 23 goals, QPR's previous five have seen 16, so there will probably be a few goals go in at either end. Reading haven't kept a clean sheet this season in any competition, whilst QPR's only League shutout came in a 0-0 draw against Chelsea. I'm going to go for Reading holding a 2-0 lead at half-time, QPR pegging it back to 2-2... then Reading grabbing that morale-boosting win in the closing stages and seeing out a tense affair 3-2.