Sunderland - Reading Preview: Black Cats looking for just second home win in rescheduled clash with Royals
Martin O'Neill's side have not won in four games but face newly promoted opposition who are also struggling near the foot of the Premier League and are without an away victory
By Tim Poole
Bardsley, Bramble, Cuellar, Rose
Larsson, Gardner, McClean, Johnson
Shorey, Mariappa, Gorkss, Harte
McAnuff, Leigertwood, Tabb, Robson-Kanu
Roberts, Le Fondre
Sunderland boss Martin O'Neill will be without veteran defenders Wes Brown and John O'Shea, so Titus Bramble may be forced to deputise at centre-half.
O'Neill does, however, have an array of options in midfield to replace the suspended Lee Cattermole, and the Northern Irishman may look to bring 23-year-old James McClean back into the fold.
The Black Cats' toughest selection dilemma looks to be in attack, with top scorer Steven Fletcher sidelined due to an ankle injury. Louis Saha may stand in for the Scot but youngster Connor Wickham is also in contention after starting last time out against Chelsea.
Visitors Reading, meanwhile, will be without first-choice right-back Chris Gunter, after the defender suffered a hamstring injury that also forced him to miss the weekend match at Southampton.
Elsewhere, Brian McDermott's men are still missing long-term absentees Jem Karacan (knee ligament) and goalkeeper Alex McCarthy (shoulder), while Sean Morrison (ankle) is also unlikely to feature.
Up front, Reading will be without top scorer Pavel Pogrebnyak, but do have Jason Roberts, Noel Hunt and Adam Le Fondre all staking a claim for a starting spot.
|DID YOU KNOW?|
- Only QPR have scored fewer Premier League goals than Sunderland this season, with the Black Cats alongside Stoke on the second-lowest tally in the division (14).
- The Mackems have won just once at the Stadium of Light in seven attempts this season, when they beat Wigan 1-0 thanks to a Steven Fletcher goal back in late September.
- O'Neill's men are currently on a winless sequence of four matches, dating back to a 3-1 win at Fulham. Saturday's defeat at home to Chelsea saw them slip into the relegation zone.
- The Black Cats have beaten Reading at the Stadium of Light three times before, but have lost twice and shared the points on three occasions.
- Reading are yet to win on their travels this season, only picking up two of a possible 24 points and losing on six occasions.
- The Royals have not kept a clean sheet in four matches, conceding ten times during that period - including the four they shipped at home to Manchester United two weeks ago.
- Forward Adam le Fondre (pictured right) is Reading's top scorer with six goals in all competitions, but only three of those have come from open play as the frontman has dispatched a total of three spot-kicks.
- A Reading win cannot push them up from 19th, though they can go level on points with Sunderland.
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Top 3 Predictions
Sunderland 2-1 Reading
- 17.23 %
Sunderland 2-0 Reading
- 13 %
Sunderland 1-1 Reading
- 7.8 %
|Premier League (EPL)||2 Feb 2013||Reading 2 - Sunderland 1|
|Premier League (EPL)||11 Dec 2012||Sunderland 3 - Reading 0|
|21 Dec 2013||Sunderland 0 - Norwich City 0||EPL|
|17 Dec 2013||Sunderland 2 - Chelsea FC 1||CCUP|
|14 Dec 2013||West Ham 0 - Sunderland 0||EPL|
|7 Dec 2013||Sunderland 1 - Tottenham 2||EPL|
|4 Dec 2013||Sunderland 3 - Chelsea FC 4||EPL|
|24||Carlos Javier Cuéllar||Defender|
|9||Adam Le Fondre||Striker|
The former Manchester City winger tucked away a sensational left-footed strike against Chelsea on Saturday and, though it proved a mere consolation, it showed what the England international is capable of at his best. If Johnson can produce, the Black Cats are likely to have a lot of joy down that left-hand side.
Every team needs a leader and never moreso than when they are in the relegation mire. For that reason, Reading's fortunes rest largely on the shoulders of skipper McAnuff; if he is up for the fight, it is likely his troops will follow. If not, heads may go down fast.
Both teams desperately need a win but neither side is in great form at the moment. A draw looks likely but with Reading's seeming inability to defend and lethal potency at the other end of the field, goals may be on the cards.
Times In BST
Live Final scheduled Suspended Cancelled Postponed