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Reading FC v Middlesbrough: Match Preview

Reading host Middlesbrough in their first league match of 2015 hoping to build on back to back wins against Norwich in their last match of 2014 and Huddersfield in the FA Cup 3rd round last weekend. Phil Owtram previews the action ahead of the game.

Clint Hughes/Getty Images

Reading FC v Middlebrough FC
League Championship
Saturday 10th January, KO 3PM
Madejski Stadium
Referee: Charles Breakspear

Form (all comps): WWDLL
Huddersfield v Reading (FA Cup): 0-1
Reading v Norwich: 2-1
Brighton v Reading: 2-2
Reading v Watford: 0-1
Birmingham v Reading: 6-1

Manager: Steve Clarke

Reading secured their place in the fourth round of the FA Cup when beating Huddersfield 1-0 at The John Smith’s Stadium last Saturday. Nick Blackman came off the bench to score the only goal of the game on the 69th minute. In an underwhelming match, it took until just before half time for the first shot on goal to be registered, an Oliver Norwood free kick. Nick Blackman’s goal was the culmination of some good work by Hal Robson-Kanu and Danny Williams that gave the Reading forward the chance to finish beyond the Huddersfield keeper. Reading have a good record in the FA Cup in recent years and have reached the quarter-finals in two of the past four seasons so will be hopeful of further progression after they were paired with fellow Championship side, Cardiff City in the fourth round. They now turn their attention back to the league campaign and their opponents on Saturday are Middlesbrough whom the Royals beat earlier in the season. Steve Clarke’s side are now unbeaten in 3 matches in all competitions including back to back wins in his last two games and he will be hoping for another win this weekend to help his side move up the table.

Form (all comps): WDWLW
Barnsley v Middlesbrough (FA Cup): 0-2
Blackburn v Middlesbrough: 0-0
Middlesbrough v Nottingham Forest: 3-0
Ipswich v Middlesbrough: 2-0
Middlesbrough v Derby: 2-0

Manager: Aitor Karanka

Middlesbrough come into this one after a comfortable 3rd round victory in the FA Cup over Barnsley at Oakwell. Goals from Jelle Vossen and a late Daniel Ayala header sealed the win for Boro and a fourth round tie against Premier League Champions, Manchester City. If there was a slight negative it wasAdam Clayton’s sending off for two bookable offences that means he will miss this weekends game. Saturday’s win means Middlesbrough have only lost once in 12 matches, a 2-0 away defeat to second placed Ipswich just before Christmas. In fact Reading’s win at The Riverside Stadium in August was one of only 5 defeats suffered by Aitor Karanka’s side so far this season and they have only lost on one other occasion at home during the current campaign. Boro are certainly having one of their best seasons in the Championship for some time and they see themselves sitting in 4th position going into the New Year, well placed to seal a play-off place come May. Their results at home against the high flying teams in the Championship have been good and they held current leaders Bournemouth to a draw at The Riverside in November, were 2-0 winners against 3rd placed Derby last month and also held Watford to a 1-1 draw in October. The blotches on the copybook have been away defeats to Ipswich and Wolves, while they were also held to draws by Blackpool and Wigan, teams that are struggling in the Championship this season.

Last five meetings
30 Aug 2014 Middlesbrough v Reading W 0-1 League Championship
22 Apr 2014 Reading v Middlesbrough W 2-0 League Championship
29 Dec 2013 Middlesbrough v Reading L 3-0 League Championship
25 Feb 2012 Middlesbrough v Reading W 0-2 League Championship
01 Oct 2011 Reading v Middlesbrough D 0-0 League Championship

Head to Head
With 26 previous meetings it is Middlesbrough that have the slightly superior record with 9 wins to Reading’s 8 while 9 have ended in a draw. The first meeting between these two sides was back in April 1927 when Reading hosted Middlesbrough in the old second division and ran out 2-1 winners that day. It was the start of a baron run for Reading which meant they had to wait 68 years for their next success against Boro when in 1995 they secured a 1-0 away win in the old first division. In more recent times Reading have won three out of their last five meetings with Middlesbrough including a 1-0 win at the Riverside Stadium in August. In terms of games at Madejski Stadium, in the last 5 matches Readings form reads: WDWLD. The corresponding fixture last season saw the Royals win 2-0 thanks to goals from Adam Le Fondre and a George Friend own goal.

Team News
Reading. Jem Karacan is likely to be on the bench against Middlesbrough and could make his first appearance in 16 months after playing 45 minutes for the under-21s this week. Garath McCleary is a doubt after only resuming training on Friday following a knock he picked up playing against Norwich, which kept him out of the Royals’ last match against Huddersfield in the FA Cup. Pavel Pogrebnyak has returned to training following a calf problem but is unlikely to feature against Boro as he looks to regain full fitness. Anton Ferdinand (calf) and Hope Akpan (shoulder) are longer-term absentees with no timescales set on their returns.  

Middlesbrough: Rhys Williams won’t be involved after he ruptured his Achilles tendon in Middlesbrough’s FA Cup win over Barnsley, it was the defenders first start after 11 months out with a similar injury. Midfielder Adam Clayton will also miss the game after being sent of in Boro’s FA Cup match against Barnsley. Albert Adomah hasn’t been picked by Ghana for the African Cup of Nations so will be available to manager Aitor Karanka. Winger Mustapha Carayol plus defenders Damia Abella and Jonathan Woodgate are all out injured and will not feature.

Prediction: Reading 1-0 Middlesbrough