If there is one game that Nigel Adkins will loathe to lose it is this one. If there is one game that Reading can’t afford it is definitely this one. Two months have passed since the Royals last tasted the sweet relish of a Premier League success and must start to pick up points quickly if they’re to avoid an immediate return to the Championship. In that time the club dispensed with Brian McDermott, replaced him with Adkins and slumped back to the bottom of the table. Many will look at the task handed to the 48-year-old former Scunthorpe physio as one of sheer impossibility with Reading seven points from safety. But this is a man that thrives in the face of adversity having steered Southampton to consecutive promotions and back into the top-flight. His cruel dismissal from St Mary’s in January was a shock to everyone and Adkins himself will profess that he has no axe to grind with the Saints. Secretly, deep down he’ll be straining at ever sinew to put one over his former employers.
To his credit Mauricio Pochettino has proved himself an astute appointment since being chosen to replace Adkins at St Mary’s. Last Saturday’s impressive win over Chelsea made it seven points from their last three games and lifted the Saints up to 12th in the table. Although four points still separate them from the drop zone on the evidence of their performances in the past month Pochettino can guide the club to safety. His primary concern this week will be rendering his predecessor’s insider knowledge of the Southampton squad useless and nabbing the victory that could rubber stamp a second season in the top-flight.
Jimmy Kebe and Jason Roberts are the only absentees for Reading meaning Nigel Adkins has a full squad to choose from in his first home game as manager. He’ll also be able to call on the services goalkeeper of goalkeeper Adam Federici after he shook off an ankle problem.
Southampton boss Mauricio Pochettino is hoping goalkeeper Artur Boruc (virus) and captain Adam Lallana (groin) will be fit for the trip to the Madjeski Stadium. Otherwise the Saints are at near full strength for this crunch clash.
What the managers said…
“Situations happen in life and in football. I had a fantastic relationship with the supporters and everyone at Southampton but that has now gone. We had a fantastic journey there and that can never be taken away. We were with the players for two and a half years and we were very successful in that spell and we played some good football. The situation has happened and what we have to do is move on. You have to move forward. That is the reality. You can either dwell on the past or get on with things.” Nigel Adkins says he bears no grudges towards Southampton (ESPN)
“That is what we’re going to attempt. Before all games we must have maximum respect for all teams that we’re facing, but our main focus is on getting three points. It’s clear to me that we’ve been very close (away from home). We’ve had some tough games away and we’ve also been close to getting a victory. Against Wigan, for example, but we haven’t been able to do it yet. Hopefully on Saturday we will have the effectiveness and the good fortune as well to get the three points because that’s what we really need this weekend.” Mauricio Pochettino has warned his side against complacency as he chases a first away win as Saints boss (saintsfc.co.uk)
Pre-Match Statistic: Reading have the worst clean sheet record in the Premier League this season with just three shut-outs. Each one of them has come at the Madjeski Stadium.
Prediction: Reading 1-2 Southampton