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Arsenal - Reading (Premier League) - Match Preview

No pressure Nigel... Whilst all eyes will be on next week's home match against Southampton for both Adkins and survival purposes, the first game of the new era takes place at the Emirates against Arsenal. A shot to nothing game, and as we know, this team thrives when the pressure is off...

Laurence Griffiths

Form Guide (all competitions, most recent result first)

Reading: L, L, L, L, L, L

Arsenal: W, W, L, W, L, L

Sorry, Reading fans. There's no pretty way to dress the fact that the Royals have lost six games in a row in all competitions. Well, let's try anyway. Two of those losses were at Old Trafford against Manchester United (both by one goal), and the other two were at Everton and Stoke City which both can be a "tough place to go" - those three teams have lost four games between them at home in the League. The other two losses did the damage, both to the survival prospects and to Brian McDermott, as home losses to Wigan Athletic then Aston Villa all but put paid to our Premier League hopes. Still, there was encouragement from the last loss against Man Utd in which the Royals could genuinely have nicked a point, though you feel the Red Devils were barely out of 3rd gear all game.

Arsenal's form guide is somewhat affected by the various cup competitions running, as they've played two against Bayern Munich (winning one and losing one), and lost at home to Blackburn Rovers in the FA Cup. Their league form has actually been very good, winning four in five and only losing to Tottenham Hotspur at White Hart Lane. They've lost three at home in the League, to Chelsea, Man City and Swansea.

Head To Head

This season we've already played Arsenal twice and those two games saw 19 (NINETEEN) goals. We lost 7-5 (AET) in the Carling Cup after being 4-0 up going into first-half injury time; then the League match at the Mad Stad saw a 5-2 loss. So expect goals...

Overall we've played the Gunners eight times, losing all eight - though one of those was the Carling Cup game this season. One of the more recent memories of playing Arsenal was their visit to the Mad Stad in our inaugural Premier League season, in which they put up a true exhibition of the Beautiful Game.

Team News

Who knows? Will Adkins make wholesale changes, or will he stick to a similar side to that which performed creditably at Old Trafford? One person who has certainly helped his cause in the international break is Hal Robson-Kanu, who scored during Wales' comeback victory over Scotland. He started against Man Utd and had Reading's best chance, curling a delicious shot just round the post, so he may continue on the wing. Jimmy Kebe missed the trip to Old Trafford and it's questionable whether he'll be fit for the game.

Pavel Pogrebnyak has served his three-match suspension and he may come back in place of Noel Hunt up front. Adam Le Fondre will probably start on the bench - and there'll be no man who knows his threat more than Nigel Adkins, after his heroics at St. Mary's last season... Alex McCarthy was on the bench last time out, and Adam Federici is still doubtful after his ankle injury, so Stuart Taylor may continue in goal for the time being. Danny Guthrie could return after picking up a minor injury.

Bad news for Arsenal as many of their first-teamers are injured for this game. Jack Wilshere, Theo Walcott and Abou Diaby all miss out - the first two are short-term injuries and Diaby is out for up to nine months with a knee ligament injury. Kieran Gibbs is doubtful because of illness, whilst both Lukas Podolski and Bacary Sagna are available for the game.

Likely Lineups

Reading (4-5-1): Taylor; Kelly, Pearce, Mariappa, Shorey; McAnuff, Guthrie, Leigertwood, Karacan, Robson-Kanu; Pogrebnyak

Arsenal (4-5-1): Szczesny; Sagna, Mertesacker, Koscielny, Monreal; Oxlade-Chamberlain, Ramsey, Cazorla, Arteta, Podolski; Giroud

The Ref

The man pointing, shouting and blowing the whistle is Mr Chris Foy. He's taken charge of Reading three times this season - a 1-0 loss at West Brom, a 0-0 draw at home to Norwich, and our 4-0 victory against Sheff Utd in the FA Cup. Meanwhile this'll be his fourth time at the Emirates this season, having overseen Arsenal's victories over Newcastle and Stoke, and a goalless draw against Sunderland to open the season. He's shown 55 yellows and 2 reds in 27 games this season.

Best Odds

Arsenal 1/4

Draw 11/2

Reading 14/1

The Tilehurst End Prediction

I couldn't decide whether to go optimistic or realistic here. Whilst I don't think we'll win, the fighting spirit and the renewed belief Adkins might bring to the side can certainly see us to a draw here. We were one penalty shout and one curling HRK shot from a point there, and it might just be that the luck can turn. As long as the performance is a good one I think Reading fans will be happy - a heavy loss will stop the survival bangwagon before the brakes have even been taken off. So with that in mind my head is going for a 2-1 loss - and my heart thinks we might just equal the Gunners in the goals department 2-2.