Aston Villa perspective: David Grimble, Up The Villa.
Ron Vlaar limped out of the draw against Arsenal with a calf problem, and might struggle to make the Reading game. If he misses out, I expect Matt Lowton to move from right back to centre back, and for Eric Lichaj (complete with epic handlebar moustache) to come back into the side. Things aren’t looking too good for Darren Bent, though: he was left out of the matchday squad against the Gunners despite being fit. When manager Paul Lambert was asked about the subject he simply replied: “It’s my choice.” It’d be no surprise if he was sold this January.
The point against Arsenal last time out could be massive, and will hopefully give everyone at the club a big boost going into the game against Reading. I hate to use the classic football cliché ‘must-win’ in November, but make no mistake this is a massive game for us, and it’s games like this that will have a major say in where we finish in the league. We were probably the better side against the Gunners, so it would be nice to see us push on and get the three points against the Royals.
It’s been a few years since we played Reading in the league, but we won three out of the four games we played during their last spell in the top flight. We did play them in a memorable FA Cup tie a couple of years ago, though, when we found ourselves 2-0 down at half time before eventually wining 4-2. Hopefully our run of victories continues against a side we tend to do well against.
Draw/Aston Villa HT/FT at 5.25. We normally start games pretty well, with a recent stat showing that we’d be fifth in the league if games finished at half-time (if only!). I think things might be tight for the first 45, but I’m hoping we have enough about us to push on in the second.
Gabriel Agbonlahor to score first at 7.25. He should be scoring more goals, and it’d be great to see him get off the mark against Reading. His pace can cause problems, and his all round play is a lot better than it was... he just needs to add goals.
Nicky Shorey to score at 17.00. I’m a firm believer in football karma, and it would be no surprise at all if Shorey popped up with a goal against his former club. He does possess a good left foot, and if nothing else the price on offer is terrific value.
Score prediction: Aston Villa 1–0 Reading (8.75)
Reading perspective: Dan Wimbush, The Tilehurst End.
The dire nature of our display against Wigan gives Brian McDermott carte blanche to change the team. We're very much expecting a reshuffle in defence, with Kaspars Gorkss likely to be dropped and Chris Gunter sweating on his place. Jem Karacan, Alex McCarthy, Danny Guthrie and Jimmy Kebe are all back in training but their participation would seem unlikely.
It's been an up-and-down last couple of weeks for Reading: we got a vital first win of the season against Everton only to then blow a lead against Wigan and slump to a last minute defeat. While that loss was disappointing, it was just our second defeat in seven matches - and both of those defeats have come by a single goal. So while our league position is fairly worrying, there are reasons for optimism.
We've never had a lot of luck at Villa Park, losing both of our past Premier League meetings as well as a League Cup tie about a decade ago. Recent history doesn't instill us with optimism, then.
Both teams to score at 1.65. The vast majority of Reading's games this season have seen plenty of goals so this would be my banker.
Reading/Villa HT/FT at 25.00. Reading have also had a habit of letting leads slip, so this also represents some value.
The draw at 3.40. Hopefully we can bounce back from defeat at the DW but I think we'll struggle against a Villa side desperate for the points. The draw looks likely.
Score prediction: Aston Villa 2-2 Reading (14.00)