The Royals have a chance to grab their first win of the season against Norwich City at the Madejski today - but Chris Hughton's Canaries are unbeaten in four. We preview today's crunch match at the bottom of the league.
The big games just keep coming. Whilst nobody around the club is describing this match, or any other, as a six-pointer just yet, you know that come the end of the season the results of these matches specifically will decide who stays up and who goes down. Everyone talks about the leagues within the Premier League and most would say that Norwich, along with Reading, were in that bottom tier. And that's how it's proven so far, with Reading 18th and Norwich 13th. Let's look some more at the key information which could decide this game.
Form Guide (all competitions, starting with most recent)
Reading: D, D (90 mins), D, L, D, D
Norwich: W, W, D, W, L, L
5 draws in the last 6 matches are only punctuated by a tight 1-0 loss at Anfield to Liverpool. The Royals held a lead in all 5 of those draws (the 4 most recent draws were half-time leads), only to surrender all three points or progress to the next round of the Capital One Cup. Whether it's tactics, mental resolve, or just tiredness, Reading don't seem to be able to perform in the second half as they do in the first. If the match ended at half-time, the Royals would have 13 points and would be sat comfortably in 7th position. But if we only took the second half of matches, Reading would be rock bottom of the league, having only "won the second half" in the first game of the season, against Stoke City. Brian McDermott will be hoping that his side can see out a game once and for all - Reading have shipped 14 second half goals so far this campaign, compared to just four in the first half.
But Chris Hughton's Norwich are in form, make no mistake. Heavy defeats to Liverpool and Chelsea have been forgotten as the Canaries are unbeaten in four. In the league they've turned over Arsenal and Stoke and gained a draw at 10-man Aston Villa, whilst they're also in the Quarter Finals of the Capital One Cup after beating Tottenham 1-0 at home. But it's not all rosy. The Canaries are still without an away win this season, having drawn 2 and lost 3 of their League games. Fans of the "first half second half" stat will be happy to know that Norwich have only "won the second half" once too - last time out against an Aston Villa side forced to play for 35 minutes with 10 men, which they only won 1-0 thanks to a header from a corner. So if, as is customary, Reading take a half-time lead, they should be able to see it out. Should...
Head to Head
We last faced Norwich City in the 2010/11 season as they went up in 2nd spot behind QPR. That season a last-minute winner from Grant Holt secured a 2-1 at Carrow Road as the Royals played the last 25 minutes with 10 men. Holt was also heavily involved in the return fixture too, as he scored to build up a 3-1 lead for the Canaries before being sent off harshly for a foul on Ian Harte. Reading managed to peg the score back to 3-3. Before that season, we had won 4 in a row against Norwich, all to nil, in the 2008/09 and 2005/06 seasons.
The Royals' biggest disappointment is that goalkeeper Alex McCarthy looks to be out with a shoulder injury he picked up at QPR. The England U21 stopper crashed into the post as he looked to see a Djibril Cisse shot wide with the last kick of the match, and initial scans don't look good. It means Adam Federici, who started the season between the sticks for Reading, should return after shaking off his own injuries. Stuart Taylor is another option in goal for Reading.
Otherwise, there aren't any new injury scares for Brian McDermott, meaning we should see an unchanged side from the one which drew 1-1 with QPR. Jem Karacan and Danny Guthrie will both miss out in midfield so Jay Tabb and Mikele Leigertwood will continue in the centre of the park. Sean Morrison had a solid debut at Loftus Road so should start with Kaspars Gorkss at centre-back, meaning Alex Pearce will have to wait until he signs on the dotted line to see a return to action. We might see changes in the front four - Jimmy Kebe could return after being dropped at QPR, whilst Roberts and Hunt were solid if unspectacular, meaning Pavel Pogrebnyak or even Adam Le Fondre could be set to make a start.
Norwich don't have any new injury problems, just a few which will be monitored ahead of today's game. Russell Martin, Javier Garrido and Michael Turner all have niggling injuries which shouldn't keep them out. It should be a pretty similar side to those Chris Hughton put out against Stoke and Aston Villa.
Reading (4-4-2): Federici; Gunter, Morrison, Gorkss, Shorey; Kebe, Leigertwood, Tabb, McAnuff; Roberts, Pogrebnyak
Norwich (4-5-1): Ruddy; Martin, Bassong, Turner, Garrido; Johnson, Pilkington, Hoolahan, Tettey, Snodgrass; Holt
Chris Foy will be taking charge of proceedings today. He last reffed us in our 1-0 loss at the Hawthorns against West Bromwich Albion earlier this season. In fact he's overseen two of the bigger games in our recent history - the 4-2 win at Upton Park last season which helped us secure promotion, but also the 2-0 loss at home to Fulham 4 years ago which proved to cost us our Premier League status.
Reading 5/4, The Draw 5/2, Norwich 9/4
The Tilehurst End Prediction
A first half lead, as always, for Reading. We should come out of the starting blocks like a team possessed and race into an early lead. The important thing then is not to let it slip. With Norwich's poor second-half record, and them only scoring more than one goal once this season, I think we will be able to hang on for all three points and secure our first win of the season. 2-1 Reading