Form Guide (all competitions, most recent result first)
Reading: L, L, L, L, L, L
Southampton: W, W, D, L, L, W
Yup, six losses in the last six games for Reading, and eight losses on the bounce in total throughout February and March. Seven of those have come in the League, and the last was a 4-1 defeat at the Emirates against Arsenal. The Gunners brought their A-Game that day and it could have been more, but if we're making excuses it was Adkins' first game in charge playing a totally different system to that which Brian McDermott employed. Hopefully with a week on the training ground and the home crowd, the method of Adkins' ways will become clear.
The Saints have had a patchy last six games but you can't ignore the form of their wins. Chelsea, Liverpool and Manchester City have fallen at St. Mary's which shows you that Southampton can certainly turn it on against the big boys. The one glimmer of hope is their away record in recent times - three draws and two losses (though one of those draws was at Stamford Bridge) shows they aren't too comfortable away from home surroundings.
Head To Head
A pretty even split between the two sides as in the last 38 meetings, Southampton have won 14, Reading 11, and 13 have ended in stalemate. The last meeting between the sides was earlier this season as the Saints beat Reading 1-0 at St Mary's, though in truth the margin could and should have been greater. Last season was a different story though, as our epic 3-1 win all but sealed promotion, and with it, the Championship trophy.
Now this is an interesting one. Jimmy Kebe has been ruled out with injury but in other positions we haven't heard a lot from the camp. Adam Federici might return between the sticks to replace Stuart Taylor, who hasn't been the most impressive custodian of the Royals' net since coming into the team. The back four might see some changes too, with Nicky Shorey most likely to be at risk of losing his position.
In midfield, Mikele Leigertwood had a game to forget at the Emirates and could see Hope Akpan replace him. Kebe, as mentioned, is injured, so Hal Robson-Kanu and Jobi McAnuff will probably start on either wing. And up top, Pavel Pogrebnyak hasn't seen much of goal recently (though part of that was down to his idiotic kick at Maynor Figueroa a few games back), whilst Adam Le Fondre has been champing at the bit. I wouldn't be surprised to see ALF start the game on the pitch.
No real injury worries for Southampton which should see them name their strongest side for the trip to the Madejski.
Reading: Federici; Gunter, Pearce, Mariappa, Kelly; McAnuff, Akpan, Karacan, Guthrie, Robson-Kanu; Le Fondre.
Southampton: Boruc; Clyne, Yoshida, Hooiveld, Shaw; Puncheon, Schneiderlin, Cork, Davis, Ramirez; Lambert
Mike Jones will be the man in charge. He's visited the Mad Stad twice this season and both have been draws - 3-3 with Fulham and then the dour 0-0 against Swansea. The Saints haven't had the pleasure of his company yet this term. He's shown 77 yellows and 3 reds (all straight reds) in 27 games this campaign.
The Tilehurst End Prediction
Perhaps my prediction last week was a tad optimistic as any confidence I had in a narrow 2-1 loss was eroded within minutes. I'll go for a draw this week, as I think Southampton are a far better side than their results suggest. But Reading will be fired up, and knowing this is a must win game (possibly still for the Saints too) there'll be goals. 2-2 is my call.