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Reading - Liverpool (Premier League) - Match Preview

Six games left. A stay of execution, or the start of another remarkable chapter in Reading's history? All sensible money is on the former but it's not over until the maths say so. Though in reality, it is. Visiting the Mad Stad to prolong the pain are Liverpool, now in the hands of ex-Royals manager Brendan Rodgers.

Clive Brunskill

Form Guide (all competitions, most recent result first)

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

Liverpool: D, W, L, W, W, W

Last week's depressing loss to Nigel Adkins' old team Southampton moved the task from the "highly improbable" folder to the "lost cause/damage limitation" one. Eight losses in a row in all competitions, just five goals scored, and the defence which was the best in the Championship last season has only kept one clean sheet in 2013 - and that was at home to League One side Sheffield United. The first half hour of the game against the Saints was promising, but once Jay Rodriguez netted, the confidence visibly evaporated and it was same old, same old. The Adkins style of play will take time (and probably new blood), but these last few games will probably be less about the result and more about squad scouting.

Same old same old for Liverpool too - in that the same Liverpool doesn't turn up from game to game. Their season has been as unpredictable as they come. A dour 0-0 against West Ham last time out came off the back of a gritty victory at Villa Park, which in turn came after being turned over by Southampton at St Mary's. Before that they won against Tottenham 3-2, Wigan 4-0 and Swansea 5-0, yet their match before THAT one was a disappointing 2-0 loss at home to West Brom. So who knows which Reds side will turn up?

Head To Head

Some fond memories of matches with Liverpool - where to start? In the 2007/08 season we beat the Reds 3-1 at home, as James Harper rounded Pepe Reina to seal a memorable victory.

A 1-1 draw at the Madejski Stadium in the 2009/10 FA Cup led to a replay at Anfield... a Brynjar Gunnarsson nutmeg, a Shane Long glancing header, and a contract for a certain Brian McDermott to manage Reading Football Club. Go on, you know you want to click play...

This season it was a disappointing 1-0 loss at Anfield for Reading - Raheem Sterling grabbing the only goal of the game. But much like many of the Royals' performances this campaign, it could have been much worse.

Team News

It's likely to be a similar side to that which lost against Southampton, as Nigel Adkins put his mark on the side in his first game in charge. Adam Le Fondre started up top, Chris Gunter came into the side pushing Stephen Kelly to left-back, whilst the midfield trio of Guthrie, Akpan and Karacan lasted until half-time before Leigertwood replaced Akpan due to injury.

Perhaps Pavel Pogrebnyak will come back in after a disappointing solo effort from ALF; perhaps Alex Pearce will rotate again with Sean Morrison or Adrian Mariappa; perhaps Garath McCleary will get a chance to show what he can do in place of Hal Robson-Kanu or one of the central trio.

Liverpool should name a similar side to that which drew 0-0 against West Ham last time out - the combination of Philippe Coutinho and Luis Suarez since the former's January arrival has been prolific, in particular.

Likely Lineups

Reading: Federici; Gunter, Pearce, Mariappa, Kelly; McAnuff, Karacan, Leigertwood, Guthrie, Robson-Kanu; Pogrebnyak

Liverpool: Reina; Johnson, Carragher, Agger, Enrique; Lucas, Gerrard; Coutinho, Henderson, Downing; Suarez

The Ref

Mark Clattenburg will be modelling the stylish yet functional referee kits (not yet available in shops) on Saturday afternoon. Our first encounter with him this season, whilst Liverpool have had the pleasure of his company once during a 4-0 win at home to Fulham. In 31 games he's shown 88 yellows and 6 reds - some of his more happy days include 10 yellows and 1 red in QPR 1-2 West Ham, 7 yellows and 1 red in West Brom 1-2 Man City, and 4 yellows and 2 reds in Chelsea 2-3 Man Utd.

Best Odds

Reading 13/2

Draw 19/5

Liverpool 1/2

The Tilehurst End Prediction

I want to be optimistic, I really do... Sadly I think Liverpool will simply have too much class for Reading and should record an easy win. The Royals are downhearted, downtrodden and trying to adjust to life under a new manager and new system and so these last few games really are just damage limitation. I think we'll score, but sadly the Reds will score more. 3-1 to Liverpool.