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Wigan Athletic v Reading: Match Preview

Phil Owtram assesses Reading's opening fixture of the 2014/15 season as the Royals prepare to take on Uwe Rosler's Wigan Athletic at the DW Stadium on Saturday afternoon.

Wigan v Reading
Wigan v Reading
Clive Brunskill

Wigan v Reading
Saturday 9th August KO 3pm
DW Stadium
Referee: Mark Brown

It’s here, the new season is upon us and the Royals have signed their first player in over 300 days and can now look forward to a trip to last seasons Championship Play-off semi-finalists, Wigan Athletic. Both sides will be looking to get off to a good start after disappointing ends to the last campaign which saw Reading experience final-day heartbreak as results meant Brighton took the final play-off spot at their expense while Wigan made the play-offs only to lose their semi-final to eventual winners QPR. This will be the first time Reading have played away from home on the opening day of the season since the 2008/09 season where they opened with a 0-0 draw away to Nottingham Forest. Historically Reading have done well in their opening fixture, losing just  twice in their first game in the last ten seasons, including at home to Plymouth Argyle at the beginning of the 2005/06 season. However this defeat saw the Royals go on a 33-game unbeaten run in the Championship and finish the season with a record 106 points, but you don’t need me to tell you that!

Head to Head

These two teams have met 40 times before in all competitions with Wigan winning 17, Reading 14 with 9 ending in a draw. The Royals have not beaten Saturday’s opponents since 2007 and you have to go back to 2003 for the last time Reading won an away match against the Latics. Their most recent meeting at the DW Stadium in April saw Wigan run out convincing 3-0 winners, a result which contributed to the Royals aforementioned play-off heartbreak.

Reading Team News

The Royals will have to cope with an all too familiar injury crisis that will see a number of first team players sit out the season opener. Garath McCleary, Jem Karacan, Danny Guthrie, Danny Williams and Stephen Kelly are all out of Saturday’s curtain raiser and Nigel Adkins will look to call upon several of the youngsters that impressed in Saturday’s 3-1 pre-season defeat to Swansea.

Pre-season

Although little weight is given to results achieved in pre-season when assessing form going into a new campaign, the latter games can give an insight into how each team will shape up and where the new signings (Simon Cox and the academy players in Readings case) will fit in. The Royals failed to stay unbeaten in preseason when going down 3-1 to a strong Swansea side at the Madejski Stadium on Saturday. In a game where Nigel Adkins named a starting eleven which looked close to the one likely to line up against Wigan at the weekend the Royals performed like a team a league below their 2011 play-off final nemesis. Despite the result the game saw a number of young Royals take the stage and put in composed performances giving encouragement to those worried about the squads strength. That coupled with the takeover seemingly to be near completion, the confirmation of the signing of Simon Cox and the prospect of two further signings before kick off on Saturday mean optimism is beginning to return to the Madejski and supporters will be looking for a good performance from their side in what is a tricky opening fixture.

Reading pre-season results:
W - Exeter City 0-1 Reading
D - Yeovil Town 1-1 Reading
W - Wycombe Wanderers 0-2 Reading
D - Stevenage 0-0 Reading
L - Reading 1-3 Swansea

As for Wigan pre-season saw good wins against Champions League qualifiers Besiktas and German Bundesliga outfit SC Paderborn. The close season has seen a couple of experienced players leave in Jean Beausejour (released) and Jordi Gomez (Sunderland), while the club has signed eleven players in the transfer window so far. Notably, Martyn Waghorn has completed a permanent transfer from Leicester, Jack Collison has joined on loan from West Ham, James Tavernier has signed from Newcastle and Oriol Riera has signed from La Liga side Osasuna. Tavernier has particularly impressed, putting in some eye-catching performances, most notably against Rochdale which saw the adventurous right-back notch his first goal for Wigan with an impressive long-range strike.

Wigan preseason results:

W - TSV Havelse 1-3 Wigan
D - Wigan 0-0 Walsall
W - Wigan 2-1 Besiktas
L - Rochdale 2-1 Wigan
L - Fortuna Dusseldorf 4-1 Wigan
W – SC Paderborn 0-1 Wigan

This will be a tough test for Nigel Adkins’ side and will be a good barometer from which to assess how Reading will fare away from home against the promotion candidates. Big Pavel Pogrebnyak will need to lead the line well while Pearce and Morrison’s partnership in the heart of the defence will also need to be solid, especially if Reading are to combat Uwe Rosler’s high pressing tactics.

It is hard to know how the season will pan-out, will the new owners stick around to see spring? Will Nigel be able to finally get Reading playing ‘the Adkins way’? Will Jem Karacan survive a Leeds fixture? Who knows but the football season is back and we’re all too glad for it.