After a disappointing last-minute loss away to Wigan on Saturday, the Royals face another away battle at Villa Park on Tuesday night. Paul Lambert's Aston Villa got a creditable 0-0 draw at home to Arsenal at the weekend and will want to build on that result.
Saturday's loss away to Wigan Athletic was a disappointing one if only for the manner of defeat - a last-minute goal from Jordi Gomez completed his hat-trick and meant the Royals came away from the DW with no points. Another lead which Reading couldn't hold onto and defensive mistakes galore sees Brian McDermott's men slip back into the relegation zone with victories for teams around them like Southampton. The quick turnaround and trip to Aston Villa is not an easy one, with their confidence sky-high after holding Arsene Wenger's Arsenal to a 0-0 draw.
Form Guide (all competitions, most recent first)
Aston Villa: D, L, L, W, W, D
Reading: L, W, D, D, D (90 mins), D
Aston Villa have faced Arsenal, Man City and Man Utd in their last three games and the draw against the Gunners will have helped their confidence a good amount, after a 5-0 rout at Eastlands following an agonising 3-2 loss against Man Utd, a game in which they led 2-0. Their only home League win came back in September, when they triumphed over Swansea City 2-0. They've only scored more than 2 goals twice this season, in the two matches already mentioned.
Reading went up to Wigan on the back of an unlikely 2-1 victory at home to Everton, and were perhaps brought back down to earth thanks to a perfect hat-trick from Jordi Gomez. Whilst the draws have been solid, it's still worth noting that Reading have held a lead in 7 of their 12 Premier League games, and only held on once.
Head to head
We've played Aston Villa six times since the turn of the century, and we've won 1 and lost 5. The last time we met was in the FA Cup 6th Round in 2010, where Shane Long plundered the Royals a 2-0 half-time lead before Ashley Young and a John Carew hat-trick finally put the tie to bed. In our previous Premier League encounters from 2006-8, our sole victory came at home in the 2006/07 season, when a Steve Sidwell brace was enough to secure victory. Our two away games ended 2-1 and 3-1 to the Villans.
Reading might see changes, with a few fans calling for Kaspars Gorkss to be dropped for either Adrian Mariappa or Alex Pearce. Sean Morrison has been solid since coming in, even opening the scoring at the DW on Saturday, but the question of who partners him remains a big one. Pearce has had a long-standing and well-documented contract dispute, whilst Mariappa has been injured so might not be back to full fitness. Right-back is another contentious area - Brian McDermott admitted that his selection between Chris Gunter and Shaun Cummings is extremely tight and so we might see the former Chelsea trainee return, just to freshen up the defensive line.
In midfield, Mikele Leigertwood and Jay Tabb should continue in the middle of the park. Danny Guthrie has just returned to training after four weeks out, and has said he won't be involved until at least Saturday. On the wings, Jimmy Kebe is unlikely to make the match whilst Hal Robson-Kanu has impressed since he has been starting for Reading so there may not be a change there.
Attack is another place which throws up questions. Adam Le Fondre and Jason Roberts didn't have the best games at Wigan, but Pavel Pogrenbyak looked disinterested when coming on as a substitute. Noel Hunt is still waiting for the call, and this is one area where I believe we could see any combination of players tomorrow evening.
For Aston Villa, captain Ron Vlaar is an injury doubt after coming off against Arsenal so Eric Lichaj may start in his place. Darren Bent is another player who could return after being surprisingly left out of Paul Lambert's line-up against Arsenal.
Aston Villa: Guzan; Lichaj, Clark, Stevens, Lowton; El Ahmadi, Westwood, Bannan; Agbonlahor, Benteke, Weimann
Reading: Federici; Cummings, Morrison, Gorkss, Shorey; McAnuff, Leigertwood, Tabb, Robson-Kanu; Pogrebnyak, Roberts
Aston Villa: evens
The Tilehurst End Prediction
Whilst Aston Villa may have gained a point against Arsenal, they really didn't offer much in attack - a problem which has blighted them this season. This could be the ideal time for the Reading defence to find their mojo again, and there's no denying that the Royals have the potential to score against the Villans after scoring 12 in their last 8. Unfortunately I can't see anything other than another D in the form column - I'm going for a 1-1 draw.