Well the excitement over Reading's last-gasp victory over West Bromwich Albion last week seems to have died down finally... And it's back to business on Tyneside, as Alan Pardew's Newcastle United are equally desperate for a win after a disappointing season thus far. The Magpies are only 5 points ahead of the Royals in the League so a win for McDermott's men would make Premier League survival a very real proposition. Here's everything you need to know about the game.
Form Guide (all competitions, most recent result first)
Reading: W, W, L, W, D, L
Newcastle: D, L, L, L, L, W
Three wins in four for Reading as that incredible comeback against West Brom breathed life back into the team and supporters. Though the last ten minutes were fantastic, the first 80 were absolutely dire so Brian McDermott will want a much better performance this week, as you can't rely on those sort of comebacks every week. Whilst the home form has improved of late, the Royals have lost six on the bounce away in the Premier League. Reading and Newcastle are the only two teams without a victory away from home this season.
After Newcastle's stunning season last year, it's been somewhat of a comedown for the Magpies. They lie 16th in the League, only two points ahead of Aston Villa in 18th, and just 5 above Reading in 19th. A draw away at Norwich last Saturday stopped the rot somewhat, but anything less than victory here would put even more pressure on Alan Pardew and his squad. They're also out of the FA Cup already after succumbing to Brighton at the Amex.
Head To Head
Twice we took the lead against Newcastle earlier in the season, and twice the Magpies pegged Reading back. Demba Ba equalised Jimmy Kebe's opener in less than a minute, but his second leveller was fortuitous to say the least, as he handled the ball into the net.
We last met the Magpies in the 2009/10 season, when Newcastle sealed an instant return to the Premier League. St James' Park was the opening day trip for the Royals that season and we were soundly beaten 3-0. In April, Newcastle visited and Kevin Nolan grabbed a brace as the Magpies all but sealed the Championship title with a 2-1 win.
We've made the journey up to St James' Park seven times, and Newcastle have won every time, outscoring us 23 goals to 4.
We'll probably see an unchanged side from the one which secured victory last week, even though the substitutes made great contributions in enabling that comeback. Garath McCleary set up the first, whilst Adam Le Fondre dummied for the first and scored the second from the penalty spot. 4-5-1 should continue, especially away from home. Daniel Carrico is likely to be more match-ready than last week, where he looked off-the-pace and was brought off at half-time; Danny Guthrie has enjoyed a resurgence of form and will want to show Newcastle exactly what they let go.
Pavel Pogrebnyak has netted in his last three Premier League games so will probably continue up top. If anything, Stephen Kelly might make his Royals bow in place of Chris Gunter, who has looked worrying over the last few games.
Newcastle should name a similar side to that which drew at Carrow Road last week. Steven Taylor has been injured for the last few months but he could return, replacing Mike Williamson or Fabricio Coloccini. Shola Ameobi is another player in line for a place in the team after missing out last week through suspension.
Reading (4-5-1): Federici; Kelly, Pearce, Mariappa, Harte; Kebe, Karacan, Carrico, Guthrie, McAnuff; Pogrebnyak
Newcastle (4-4-2): Krul; Santon, Taylor, Coloccini, Perch; Debuchy, Anita, Marveaux, Gutierrez; Cisse, Ameobi
Andre Marriner is no stranger to controversy - especially involving these two sides. He was in charge of this fixture in September when he allowed Demba Ba's goal to stand despite it being clear handball. He was the same referee who allowed Luis Suarez' controversial FA Cup goal to stand too. He's shown 61 yellows and no reds in 19 games this season.
The Tilehurst End Prediction
It's important to show that the win last week wasn't just a flash-in-the-pan, a lucky break. Brian McDermott will know that the first 75 minutes were totally unacceptable and the team will have worked on those deficiencies in training this week. Whilst I can't see Reading getting the first away win on the board, I can see them breaking the string of losses at St James' Park - I'm plumping for a 1-1 draw - and another late, late show from Reading.