Having lost at home to Southampton in demoralising fashion last weekend, Reading are now not so much looking over their shoulder at relegation worries but rather staring down the barrel of the Championship.
New boss Nigel Adkins was unable to inspire his charges to victory over his former club in what was his first home game in charge. With that making it back-to-back defeats since he took over from Brian McDermott last month, the bottom-of-the-table Royals are now eight points from safety with just six games remaining. Relegation looms large.
The Berkshire club welcome Liverpool on Saturday afternoon fresh from what was yet another frustrating afternoon for the Reds at home to West Ham last Sunday.
Brendan Rodgers―a former Reading boss―was unable to inspire his team to victory against Sam Allardyce’s stubborn Hammers despite the hosts dominating large periods of the contest, with the goalless draw further denting the Reds’ hopes of securing European qualification for next season.
Back at an old stomping ground, Rodgers will be hoping to see his team rediscover a scoring touch that has seen them bag the third-highest total of goals on the road in the Premier League during this campaign.
Reading have sunk like a stone in recent weeks, hitting the bottom of the table following a run of seven straight league defeats, which had come off the back of an excellent January and early February that brought three wins and a draw from four matches.
Occasionally excellent but frequently frustrating, the fact that the record for Liverpool’s last three games is LWD probably tells you everything you need to know about their inconsistencies. They’ve only won four of their last nine league away games. However, they have scored in every one and hit the net 19 times in total during those fixtures.
Reading Team News
Mikele Leigertwood replaced Hope Akpan at half-time in the Southampton loss, and the midfielder could come in from the start in place of the former Everton man. Adam Le Fondre should hold on to his position upfront despite the presence of Noel Hunt and Pavel Pogrebnyak on the bench.
Liverpool Team News
Stewart Downing was forced off just 25 minutes into the West Ham match due to illness, but Rodgers has declared the winger fit for selection.
Jordan Henderson could again start in place of Daniel Sturridge as Rodgers opts for an extra midfielder, although Raheem Sterling―the matchwinner when the Reds beat the Royals 1-0 in October―is out injured.
Reading: Adam Federici, Chris Gunter, Sean Morrison, Adrian Mariappa, Stephen Kelly, Mikele Leigertwood, Jem Karacan, Jobi McAnuff, Hal Robson-Kanu, Danny Guthrie, Adam Le Fondre.
Liverpool: Pepe Reina, Glen Johnson, Jamie Carragher, Daniel Agger, Jose Enrique, Lucas Leiva, Steven Gerrard, Jordan Henderson, Stewart Downing, Philippe Coutinho, Luis Suarez.
Players to Watch
Hal Robson-Kanu, Reading
Often a substitute under previous boss McDermott, the Welsh international has started both matches under Adkins so far. Five goals and two assists in his first ever season in the top flight isn’t bad going at all, and having scored the winner for Wales against Scotland recently, he is likely to be full of confidence.
Philippe Coutinho, Liverpool
It hasn’t taken long for the little Brazilian to tiptoe his way into the hearts of the Liverpool supporters, and it has been easy to see why. The 20-year-old January arrival from Inter Milan has scored twice and set up three goals during his six Premier League starts, and with Liverpool likely to be on the front foot against the struggling hosts on Saturday, it could be that his final pass or shot makes the difference.